In New Jersey, unlawful possession of a firearm is a serious crime and it can have serious penalties for anyone found guilty of it. The New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice describes somebody committing unlawful gun possession as some who “knowingly has in his possession” a weapon which is “under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for lawful use.”

This is a bit of a broad definition. What it ultimately comes to mean is that there must be a weapon; the person accused of unlawful gun possession but possesses that weapon; they also must have knowledge of the weapon and what it is used for; and the circumstances of the possession dictate that the gun was not for appropriate lawful use. This last one is important, as it helps to determine lawful possession from unlawful possession.

Who is Prohibited from Possessing a Gun in New Jersey?

New Jersey law prevents a number of people from owning a gun in the state. Similarly, it is also unlawful to own certain types of weapons. A person who is prohibited from owning a gun cannot own any but somebody allowed to own a firearm would also be prohibited from owning a restricted weapon.

Those that are prohibited from owning a firearm are:

  • Anybody who has been convicted of a crime or an offense that involved domestic violence.
  • Anybody who is known to be dependent on drugs.
  • Anybody who is known to be dependent on alcohol or considered to be a drunkard.
  • Anybody who has been committed to a mental institution or anybody who has been confined for a mental disorder. (A psychiatrist can overturn this particular prohibition).
  • Anybody who suffers from a physical defect or disease that would make the possession of a firearm dangerous. (A doctor can overturn this particular prohibition).
  • Anybody who is under the age of eighteen or twenty-one, depending on the particular type of firearm being considered.
  • Anybody who is on the terrorist watchlist.
  • Anybody who has had a firearm seized under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.
  • Anybody who has been convicted of a crime under N.J.S 2C:43-7.2.

Please note that if you are prohibited from owning a firearm then you are also prohibited from owning ammunition.

What Firearms are You Prohibited from Owning?

Along with those individuals who are prohibited from owning a gun, the following firearms are prohibited in general and their possession is considered to be unlawful:

  • Silencers: This is an attachment for a weapon rather than a weapon itself but owning a silencer for a firearm can result in a year and a half in prison.
  • Sawed-Off Shotguns: Owning a shotgun is fine but once that shotgun has been altered into a sawed-off it becomes an unlawful weapon that could result in several years in prison.
  • Destructive Devices: These fall into the same degree of crime as owning a sawed-off shotgun does. These are devices like grenades and explosives, aka those devices that are used to cause destruction.
  • Defaced Firearms: Nearly any firearm is considered to be unlawful if it is altered in any way. The one exception to this is in the case of antique firearms.
  • Certain Bullets: Certains types of bullets such as body armor penetrating bullets are illegal to possess.

What are the Penalties for Gun Possession?

There are a few different kinds of gun possession you can be charged with and each has a different penalty:

  • Possession of a Weapon for Unlawful Purposes: You could legally be allowed to possess a weapon but if you purchase the weapon with the intention of using it for an illegal activity then you can be charged with this one. It is a second-degree crime that will get your 5-10 years in prison. Depending on the circumstance of the crime you will have to serve 85% of your sentence rather than get released early.
  • Possession of a Weapon while in Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance: Between 5-10 years and no early release, this is the penalty for possessing a gun while also dealing drugs. It is also a second-degree crime.
  • Unlawful Possession of a Handgun: There is no open carry or concealed carry in New Jersey. Guns must be carefully stored when being moved from one place to the next. This makes it incredibly easy to be charged with the unlawful possession of a handgun, even if you bought it legally. It’s a second degree crime with 5-10 years in prison.
  • Unlawful Possession of a Rifle or Shotgun: You must have a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card (FID) to own a rifle or a shotgun in New Jersey. It is also important to transport the gun in the proper manner. Failing to have a FID or transport the gun properly can result in this charge, which is a third-degree crime that could get you 3-5 years in prison.
  • Possession of Body Armor Penetrating Bullets: Hollow-nose bullets, dum-dum bullets and any other kind of bullet that could penetrate body arm are prohibited. Owning any is a fourth-degree crime that could get you 18 months behind bars.
  • Possession of a Silencer: Owning a silencer is a fourth-degree crime that could get you 18 months behind bars.
  • Possession of a BB Gun: This might be a surprising one but New Jersey has strict rules when it comes to owning a BB gun. You absolutely must have a FID, otherwise it’s possession would be considered unlawful. Owning a BB gun unlawfully is a third-degree crime which could get you 3-5 years in prison.

What Should I Do if I’m Charged with Possession of a Firearm?

Every charge is different because every situation is different. So it’s impossible to give you a roadmap of what to do in a piece of writing like this. That’s why it’s so important that you hire an attorney.

An attorney will listen to the circumstances of your case and be able to offer you a roadmap of what to expect and how to build a defense that comes from years of experience. If you have been charged with gun possession then please call us at (201) 345-9511. The longer you wait, the less time we have to build your defense, so don’t wait.