If you are considering buying brass knuckles or another weapon for self-defense or protection, consider the legality of owning those weapons first. Brass knuckles, like many other weapons, are illegal in New Jersey. Carrying these items in your car or on your person can lead to serious criminal charges. For help with your case, contact the Atlantic City weapons crime lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Read on to learn more about weapons charges and why brass knuckles are illegal in NJ.
Are Brass Knuckles Illegal in NJ?
In New Jersey, it is illegal to carry weapons around with you. Some weapons are permitted for self-defense, and though it is difficult, you may be able to get a gun permit. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-3, it is illegal to possess certain types of weapons, which includes weapons like brass knuckles, knuckle dusters, a cestus, or reinforced gloves.
New Jersey law lists particular weapons that you cannot own. You can face gun possession charges for having a gun without a permit or license, but you can also face criminal penalties for possession of other weapons or weapon components, such as:
- “Destructive devices”
- Sawed-off shotguns
- Altered firearms
- Armor piercing ammunition
- Stun guns/Tasers
- Bump stocks and trigger cranks
In addition to these, it is illegal to own other conventional weapons. These weapons are listed as illegal because they are typically offensive weapons carried to hurt others – not for self-defense. Whatever your reason for having one of these weapons in your car, in your purse, or on your person, it is illegal to own certain weapons, including the following:
- Billy clubs
- Brass knuckles (called “metal knuckles” in the statute)
- Ballistic knives
Under the next code section, N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-4, it is also illegal to possess weapons for unlawful purposes. This usually applies when someone is caught with a weapon while committing a crime or attempting to commit a crime. There are other laws that punish weapons possession during a drug crime, as well.
Defenses to Brass Knuckle Possession in NJ
As the law is written, it is only illegal to own these listed weapons “without any explainable lawful purpose.” This exception is specific to things like daggers, blackjacks, and brass knuckles, but does not apply to most firearms.
In many cases, you may be able to lawfully possess these kinds of weapons for things like theatrical performances, personal collections, and other educational and entertainment purposes. However, carrying one around concealed in a pocket, in a glove compartment, or in a purse likely has no lawful purpose.
The claim that you carry one of these weapons for self-defense is not always accepted by courts, and you may still face charges even if you carry brass knuckles in case you need to defend yourself.
In many cases, you will not be stopped and investigated for weapons possession unless police stop you at a security checkpoint or for another offense. If you are caught with brass knuckles or another weapon during a security search or a search justified by another investigation, you may face charges when police find the weapons. However, police have no right to search you without the belief that you are involved in a crime. In some cases, evidence of weapon possession and arrests for carrying brass knuckles can be thrown out if the search was conducted illegally or without your permission.
Penalties for Carrying Knuckle Dusters in New Jersey
Carrying an illegal weapon in New Jersey is a fourth degree crime. In New Jersey, crimes are divided into “disorderly persons offenses” and “indictable crimes” (often just called “crimes”), which roughly equate to “misdemeanors” and “felonies” in other states. Crimes of the fourth degree are the lowest level of crime in New Jersey, but they can still carry substantial penalties.
Fourth degree crimes are punished by up to 18 months in jail and fines up to $10,000. These penalties are merely the maximum, and judges do not usually order the full penalties unless your crime was particularly dangerous or heinous. For a first-time offender or someone with a clean criminal record, judges may order reduced penalties.
This crime has no mandatory minimum jail time or fine. Because of that, a judge may sentence you to a fine only or may include a term of probation as part of your sentence. This may allow you to avoid jail, but it is still a harsh punishment that potentially includes paying fines, checking in with a probation officer, attending crime prevention courses, performing community service, and remaining free from further crime. Talk to an attorney about the potential penalties for your weapons charges.
Carrying a weapon like brass knuckles for an unlawful purpose, such as the commission of a crime, is upgraded to a third degree crime. This is punished by 2-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
Atlantic City Weapons Crime Lawyer Offering Free Consultations
If you or a loved one was charged with a crime for possessing brass knuckles, knuckle dusters, or another weapon, talk to an Atlantic City criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.