A criminal conviction related to unlawful possession of weapons in Atlantic County can have devastating consequences for the defendant. A law called the Graves Act requires mandatory minimum sentencing for many gun crimes in New Jersey, which means that a defendant who is convicted of possessing a weapon must serve a portion of their sentence without eligibility for parole.
If you’ve been charged with gun possession in Atlantic City, it’s critical to make sure you’re being represented by an aggressive law firm with a track record of achieving favorable outcomes for defendants facing challenging legal circumstances. With over 45 years of experience, the gun crime lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych are equipped with the knowledge and skill it takes to handle complex felony weapons charges in Atlantic County. To set up a free and confidential legal consultation, call our law offices at (609) 616-4956. Se habla español.
When Can You Be Charged with Unlawful Weapons Possession?
Every state has its own laws defining what does and doesn’t count as a weapon. In New Jersey, under the provisions of N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-5, you can be charged with unlawful possession of a weapon for owning any of the following items without the appropriate license or permit:
- Machine guns
In addition, N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-3 prohibits silencers, sawed-off shotguns, and guns which have been defaced, such as guns with altered serial numbers.
In most states, minor offenses are called misdemeanors while more serious offenses are called felonies. In New Jersey, misdemeanors are called “disorderly persons offenses” or “DP offenses,” while felonies are called “indictable crimes” or “indictable offenses.”
Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-5, the unlawful possession of a weapon is always an indictable crime. However, the way the crime is categorized, or graded, depends which type of weapon is involved. For instance, possession of a rifle or shotgun is a third degree crime, while possession of a machine gun is a second degree crime.
The lower the degree, the more serious the offense — and the higher the associated fines. New Jersey criminal fines are outlined 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
Minimum Sentencing for NJ Gun Crimes Under the Graves Act
Generally speaking, judges have discretion when it comes to determining an appropriate sentence. However, legislation known as the Graves Act, which is codified at N.J.S.A. § 2C:43-6, creates mandatory minimum sentencing for certain crimes related to using or possessing a firearm in New Jersey. While the Graves Act initially dealt only with a few select crimes, it was later expanded in scope to include additional offenses, including the unlawful possession of a shotgun, handgun, machine gun, or rifle.
Under the Graves Act, a defendant who is convicted of any of these crimes must receive a prison sentence with a minimum period of ineligibility for parole (early release) set at either one third of the sentence, one half of the sentence, or three years — whichever period is longest. Because parole does not become a possibility until the third-sentence, half-sentence, or three-year period ends, the offender remains incarcerated for that full amount of time.
New Jersey’s maximum prison sentences are listed below:
- Fourth Degree Crimes — Up to 18 months
- Third Degree Crimes — 3 to 5 years
- Second Degree Crimes — 5 to 10 years
- First Degree Crimes — 1o to 20 years
Who Qualifies for Pretrial Intervention (PTI)?
Even though weapons possession is a serious felony subject to the mandatory sentencing provisions of the Graves Act, some defendants are still able to participate in a diversion program known as Pretrial Intervention, or PTI. Because PTI is designed to encourage rehabilitation instead of focusing on punishment, participants are required to follow certain rules and restrictions while enrolled in the program, not unlike probation. If the defendant completes PTI successfully, there will be no record of his or her conviction, and he or she will not receive a criminal record. Generally speaking, a defendant must be non-violent and have a clean record to participate in PTI.
However, because weapons crimes are so serious and carry such severe criminal penalties, it is common for prosecutors to deny consent for PTI participation, unless there are exceptional circumstances. Representation by an experienced criminal attorney can increase your chances of being admitted into PTI.
If you or one of your family members was arrested for gun possession in Atlantic City or other Atlantic County locations, you need dedicated legal support on your side. Sentencing guidelines create lengthy minimum prison terms, and having a criminal record attached to your name can create major disruptions when it comes to employment, loan eligibility, professional licenses, and other important parts of daily life.
It’s never easy to be charged with a crime, but you don’t have to face your situation alone. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 today to set up a free and private legal consultation.