When you are arrested for a crime in Philadelphia, there are two court appearances you will attend. The preliminary arraignment is held shortly after your arrest, and the formal arraignment is held after the preliminary hearing if you are charged with a felony offense and the preliminary hearing judge finds that the Commonwealth has made…
New Jersey has some of the strictest and most complicated gun laws in the country. You can be charged with a crime simply for possessing a firearm even if you weren’t doing anything wrong. In addition, a firearms charge can carry serious consequences – years in prison, and possibly thousands of dollars in fines.
If you’ve been charged with a firearms violation, New Jersey criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer can help you understand the charges and your options. She gives her clients an aggressive, passionate defense to ensure that they get a fair result. Call us today at 215-712-1212 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your charges.
Possible Firearms Offenses in New Jersey
As mentioned above, the New Jersey firearms laws are incredibly complex, and you can be charged with a crime even if you didn’t realize you were doing anything wrong. New Jersey law provides for five categories of charges you could face for owning or possessing a firearm.
- Possession of a Firearm While Committing a Crime. If you are in possession of a firearm while committing another crime, you could be charged with a separate offense just for having a gun. The prosecution does not need to prove that you used the firearm or intended to use it – all they need to show is that the firearm was in your possession.
- Possession of a Firearm for Unlawful Purposes. It is illegal in New Jersey to own or possess a firearm for an unlawful purpose. These charges can be somewhat difficult for the prosecution to prove since they will have to rely on circumstantial evidence to show that you intended to use the gun for some subsequent crime. However, it’s important to emphasize that mere ownership of the firearm is a chargeable offense if law enforcement believed that you planned to use the gun in the commission of a crime. For example, you could be convicted of possession of a firearm for unlawful purposes if the prosecution can prove that you had the gun to commit a robbery, even though no robbery was ever committed.
- Possession of a Firearm without a Permit. It is illegal to own or possess a firearm in New Jersey without the appropriate license or permit. Again, this is a chargeable offense even if you weren’t doing anything wrong or planning to commit a crime. You could be charged with this crime even if you are just visiting or traveling through New Jersey.
- Possession of an Illegal Firearm. Under New Jersey law, it is simply illegal to own certain guns. For example, it is illegal to own a sawed-off shotgun or any gun with the serial number removed. It is also illegal to own a silencer under New Jersey law.
- Persons Prohibited from Owning a Firearm. New Jersey also prohibits certain people from owning guns. This includes anyone who has ever been committed to a mental institution and people convicted of violent crimes, including people with domestic violence convictions.
As you can see, it is very easy to find yourself facing criminal charges related to the ownership or possession of a firearm in New Jersey. Firearms offenses are aggressively prosecuted, and you should consult with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney if you have been charged.
Potential Consequences of a Firearms Conviction
If convicted, the consequences you face will vary according to the crime you have been charged with and the facts surrounding your case. In addition, the Graves Act imposes minimum prison sentences and will render you ineligible for parole. If you have been charged with a Graves Act violation, you are facing a mandatory minimum prison sentence of three years.
There are four degrees of firearms offenses in New Jersey:
- First-degree crimes are the most serious and are punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison.
- Most firearms charges in New Jersey are second-degree crimes, punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison. Possession of a handgun without a license is a second-degree crime.
- Third-degree crimes are punishable by three to five years in prison. Possession of a rifle or shotgun without the appropriate license is a common example of a third-degree firearms charge.
- Fourth-degree crimes are punishable by up to 18 months in prison. Possessing a silencer is a fourth-degree firearms violation.
In addition to prison time, the court could also impose heavy fines – a second-degree firearms violation, for example, could carry fines of up to $150,000.
Possible Defenses to a Firearms Charge
As mentioned above, New Jersey’s weapons laws are extraordinarily strict and carry harsh penalties. As a result, it’s critical to have an experienced attorney on your side that knows how to defend against a firearms charge.
In order to be convicted, the prosecution must prove that you owned the gun or the gun was in your possession. As a result, one of the most basic defenses is to challenge the prosecution’s evidence regarding possession. This may not be an option if they have documented records that you own the guy, but in many cases, possession is not always clear. If you can demonstrate that the prosecution cannot prove that you owned or possessed the gun in question, then the charges should be dropped, or you should be acquitted.
Another possible defense is to move to suppress the prosecution’s evidence because it was obtained illegally. This is common in cases where you were charged with a firearms offense as the result of a warrantless arrest or search. If you can prove that law enforcement did not have a legal basis to arrest or search you, then you can argue that any evidence obtained as a result of the arrest or search should not be admissible. If you are successful in arguing this defense, the prosecution may have to drop the charges against you.
Criminal Defense Attorney Lauren Wimmer Can Help You Fight Your New Jersey Firearms Charges
A conviction for a firearms violation can result in serious jail time, heavy fines, and jeopardize your future. If charged, you can be certain that you will be prosecuted aggressively. However, you don’t have to face these charges alone – criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer can level the playing field and help you fight back. If you’re facing gun charges, contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law today by calling 215-712-1212 or by filling out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.