The Second Amendment of the US Constitution, through the Fourteenth Amendment, guarantees the protection of the right to bear arms in New Jersey. That does not mean, though, that you can own any weapon you want, wherever you want, no matter who you are. New Jersey’s criminal laws do place restriction on what weapons can be owned, how they can be used, and who can own then.
If you are facing weapons charges in South Jersey, you should have an experienced defense attorney look over your case. The Law Offices of John J. Zarych work in South Jersey to keep clients out of jail and get charges dropped. For a free consultation, call us at (609) 616-4956.
Illegal Weapons Charges
In general, you are allowed to own a gun in New Jersey if you have a proper permit. You are even allowed to openly carry a weapon if you so choose – but it might get you odd looks from others, especially police. These laws do not give free reign to carry any weapon you want, though.
N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-3 prohibits New Jerseyans from possessing certain weapons, including:
- “Destructive devices” (explosives, mines, grenades, etc.)
- Sawed-off shotguns (under 26” long, or under 16” from breach to muzzle)
- Defaced firearms (guns with serial numbers or manufacturer marks removed)
- Switchblades (knives that open with the push of a button)
- Daggers (knives with a blade on each)
- Stilettos, dirks, etc (thin knives)
- Ballistic knives (blade shoots out of the handle)
- “Other dangerous knives”
- Blackjacks and billy clubs
- Brass knuckles
- Straps of leather with metal attached
- Wood with razors attached
- Armor-piercing rounds
- Stun guns or Tasers
- High capacity magazines
This list is quite long, and, depending on how a court interprets these items and their definitions, could include more items as well.
It is also against the law to own certain types of guns without the proper permits and licenses. N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-5 bans the following guns without a license or permit:
- Machine guns (require license)
- Handguns (require permit)
- Rifles and shotguns (require a firearms purchaser ID card)
- “Assault firearms” (which include many carbines; burst-fire, fully automatic, and semi-automatic military rifles; shotguns with revolving cylinders; semi-automatic shotguns; and Uzi-style guns – and require a license)
You can also never bring a gun onto school grounds (of any level of education), even if you have a permit or license.
If you are caught with any of these weapons, you can be convicted of a crime. Even if you do not actually use these weapons, simple possession is itself a crime.
For knives, clubs, brass knuckles, and those other weapons, you actually possess them if you have “an explainable lawful purpose.” Unfortunately, that is not defined by statute. Additionally, though there is no ban on fixed-blade knives, and no length limit, New Jersey’s broad criminalization of weapons is likely to apply to any blade.
Most of these crimes are either third degree crimes, which have a potential of three to five years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines, or fourth degree crimes, with a potential of up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $10,000. The illegal possession of guns (except sawed-off shotguns) are all second degree crimes, meaning a potential prison term of five to 10 years, with fines up to $150,000.
Using a Gun in a Crime
While possession of a weapon is one crime, there is a separate crime for actually using weapons during the commission of a crime.
N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-4.1 creates a second degree crime for possessing a weapon (other than a gun) during the commission of certain drug crimes. Aside from this, the possession of a weapon for any “unlawful purpose” is generally punished under N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-4. This criminalizes the “unlawful purpose” of the possession, which the simple possession law does not. “Unlawful purpose” clearly includes the use of a gun to threaten, or the actual use of a weapon during the commission of a crime.
If the weapon is a gun, explosive, or “destructive device,” the possession for an unlawful purpose is a second degree crime. If it is any other weapon, then the crime is a third degree crime. It is also illegal to have an imitation firearm if a bystander or target might think it is being used for an unlawful purpose. Even if the gun is not real or is unloaded, that imitation firearm offense is a fourth degree crime.
It is also illegal under N.J.S.A. § 2C:39-13 to wear body armor or a bulletproof vest during a murder, manslaughter, robbery, sexual assault, burglary, kidnapping, escape, or assault. This includes wearing the vest during the actual commission of the crime, attempt, or flight afterwards. This is a second degree crime. Any other unlawful use of a body vest is a third degree crime.
Other Weapons Crimes
On top of these laws, it is also a crime for certain people to have a gun. That includes:
- People previously convicted of aggravated assault, arson, burglary, escape, extortion, homicide, kidnapping, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, bias intimidation, or endangering the welfare of a child (whether or not that crime involved the use of a gun)
- Anyone who has been committed to a mental institution, hospital, or sanitarium due to mental health issues
- Anyone convicted of a disorderly persons offense involving domestic violence – or who otherwise lost their gun rights due to domestic violence
- Anyone convicted of a crime in another state/jurisdiction comparable to these crimes
Southern New Jersey Weapons Crimes Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a weapons crime in South Jersey, contact an attorney who can help you with your case. The Law Offices of John J. Zarych have years of experience in criminal defense, and can help represent you on your pending weapons charges. For a free, confidential consultation, call us at (609) 616-4956.