NJ Sentencing Guidelines for Possession of Weapons for Unlawful Purposes

New Jersey is well-known for enforcing some of the nation’s toughest gun laws.  If you are convicted of a gun crime in Atlantic County, such as possession of weapons for unlawful purposes, you will face mandatory minimum sentencing under legislation known as the Graves Act.  You could also lose your gun privileges, face hefty fines, and receive a permanent criminal record, which can create major obstacles when it comes to employment, professional certifications, loan eligibility, and other important parts of your day-to-day life.

If you or one of your loved ones was arrested for gun possession in Atlantic City or other locations in Atlantic County, it is absolutely vital that you work with a skilled defense attorney who has a history of handling complex weapons charges in New Jersey.  At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our passionate and knowledgeable criminal lawyers bring more than 45 years of experience representing adult and juvenile defendants to every case we handle.  We will be there around the clock to guide you through the justice system, uphold your legal rights, and vigorously challenge the evidence against you.

To set up a free, completely confidential consultation, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956.  Our line is always open for your call, including nights and weekends.  Se habla español.

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When Can You Be Charged with Possessing a Weapon for Unlawful Purposes?

Possession of weapons for unlawful purposes should not be confused with a similar-sounding offense called unlawful possession of a weapon, which is governed by its own statute (N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-5).  Possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, which is addressed under N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-4, is a completely different crime.  That being said, it is possible for the same defendant to be charged with both offenses.

Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-4, a person can be charged with possessing a weapon for unlawful purposes when he or she possesses a firearm, imitation firearm, explosive device, destructive device, or any other weapon “with a purpose to use it unlawfully against the person or property of another.”  This could involve intent to use the weapon for burglary, assault, sexual assault, or other offenses.

Possessing a weapon for unlawful purposes is called an “indictable crime” or “indictable offense,” which would be described as a felony in other states.  However, the way an individual offense is graded depends on the type of weapon involved, as summarized below:

  • Second Degree Crime 
    • Destructive devices
    • Explosives
    • Handguns
    • Machine guns
    • Rifles
    • Shotguns
    • Other firearms
  • Third Degree Crime 
    • Other weapons (non-firearm, e.g. switchblades)
  • Fourth Degree Crime  
    • Imitation firearms

NJ Criminal Penalties: Mandatory Minimum Sentencing for Gun Crimes Under the Graves Act

New Jersey has adopted legislation known as the Graves Act, which is codified at N.J.S.A. § 2C:43-6.  The Act requires defendants who are convicted of certain gun-related offenses to serve mandatory minimum sentences, during which time offenders are ineligible for parole, or early, conditional release from prison.  N.J.S.A. § 2C:43-6 states that the Graves Act applies to defendants who are convicted, among other offenses, of crimes involving “subsection a. of N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-4,” which is the section of the statute pertaining to firearms.

The Graves Act does not impose a fixed, uniform sentence upon all defendants to whom it applies.  Instead, it requires that convicted offenders serve a certain portion of their sentence without the possibility of parole.  This period of ineligibility for parole can be one third of the sentence imposed, one half of the sentence imposed, or three years – whichever period of time is greatest.  New Jersey’s prison sentences are listed below by degree:

  • Fourth Degree Crimes – Up to 18 months
  • Third Degree Crimes – 3 to 5 years
  • Second Degree Crimes – 5 to 10 years
  • First Degree Crimes – 10 to 20 years

In addition to these lengthy prison sentences, convicted offenders may also receive enormously expensive criminal fines, which are listed below:

  • Fourth Degree Crimes – Up to $10,000
  • Third Degree Crimes – Up to $15,000
  • Second Degree Crimes – Up to $150,000
  • First Degree Crimes – Up to $200,000

Which Defendants Qualify for Pretrial Intervention (PTI) in Atlantic County?

Due to the stringent requirements imposed by the Graves Act, it is uncommon for defendants to be accepted into diversion programs such as Pretrial Intervention (PTI).  However, a prosecutor may grant consent for the defendant to enter PTI if there are unusual circumstances.

In order for this to occur, the defendant generally must have a clean criminal record, must have bought or obtained their weapon in a state other than New Jersey, and must have been in New Jersey for lawful purposes, which obviously excludes travel for purposes of drug or weapons trafficking.  Additionally, offenders cannot participate in PTI if they have already been through the program in the past.

If the offender completes PTI successfully, which involves following certain rules and requirements for a fixed period of time, there will be no record of a conviction, and he or she will not have a criminal record.  There will, however, still be a record of the arrest.

The Graves Act creates major legal challenges for defendants charged with weapons possession in New Jersey, but an experienced defense attorney can increase the likelihood that your case will resolve favorably.  If you or one of your family members was arrested for possession of weapons for unlawful purposes in Atlantic County, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956 for a free and private legal consultation.

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