New Jersey Handgun Restrictions Upheld on Appeal
The Third Circuit recently upheld New Jersey’s handgun “carry” permit requirement that an individual must have a “justifiable need to carry a handgun.” This restriction means that the chief of police and superior court judge have wide discretion to grant or deny a permit to carry application. New Jersey law enforcement officers in general take a hard line on firearms and weapons offenses.
An essential element of an unlawful possession of a handgun charge is the absence of a permit. A New Jersey man was accused of firing several shots in a bar. While no one was injured, when police responded they found a large silver handgun. Charges against the man included unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
Possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose
It is a second-degree crime to have a firearm with the purpose to use it unlawfully against a person or property. Even having an imitation firearm for an unlawful purpose can be a crime.
However, the prosecution must prove that the person intended to use the firearm for an unlawful purpose. An honest purpose can provide a defense. Showing that the gun was used for sport, such as target shooting or hunting, and a close proximity to a target range or forested land could provide a credible defense to a charge.
Other defenses to a weapons charge may relate to search and seizure. What suspicion did the officer have to search a vehicle or home? Was the officer’s suspicion reasonable?
Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI)
For those charged with a first-time offense there could be an alternative to the regular criminal justice process. The PTI program is a way to have the original charge(s) dismissed and kept off your record. The program might include random urine screenings, payment of a fine, penalty or fee, community service, a psychological or drug/alcohol evaluation and treatment.
Only adults are eligible for PTI and those with a prior record usually cannot take part in the program. There are tight deadlines for applying to the program, so consult a New Jersey criminal defense attorney right away, if you have questions.
Consult an attorney to ensure your rights are protected
New Jersey weapons charges carry hefty criminal penalties. Even some first offenses can result in prison time. Often your right to possess a firearm in the future could also be in jeopardy. An experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney can explain all available options and assist you to reach the best possible outcome.