Gun crime has received increased attention in recent weeks. Communities across the nation, including many in New Jersey, have been highlighting programs that allow area residents to turn in unwanted firearms to local authorities.
“Project Safe Surrender,” a public awareness program aimed at getting weapons off the streets, is the latest initiative launched by police in South Brunswick. Under the terms of the program, individuals can turn into unwanted guns to the police, and in return receive immunity from weapons charges. However, the offer of immunity is far from comprehensive, and anyone considering turning in a firearm should be aware of the possible legal implications.
Project Safe Surrender is really just a publicity campaign that highlights statewide law. “We have always accepted firearms that residents wanted to surrender,” said South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond Hayducka in a department press release. “This project is to let all the public know how they can safely turn in unwanted firearms.”
Under New Jersey law, individuals may voluntarily surrender “firearms, weapons, destructive devices, silencers or explosives” to the local police chief in their municipality of residence. After giving a written notice of intent to voluntarily surrender a gun and then actually turning in the firearm, an individual is automatically immunized against prosecution for the crime of unlawful possession of a weapon.
However, anyone who turns in a gun should be aware that such immunity is very limited. It does not extend to anyone who had already been charged with or was already under investigation for unlawful possession of a weapon at the time of surrender. In addition, the limited immunity does not extend to any other criminal charges or any other individuals.
There are a number of scenarios in which turning in a gun could invite trouble even with immunization against prosecution for unlawful possession of a weapon. Someone with an outstanding warrant for any offense who comes to the police station to turn in a weapon could find him or herself under arrest. If the surrendered weapon is a piece of evidence in some alleged criminal incident, such as an assault, theft or gang crime, it could be used as evidence against the person turning it in or some third party. Finally, someone who turns in a gun only immunizes him or herself against weapons charges; if, for example, a mother turned in a gun that belonged to her son, the son would not be legally protected against prosecution for unlawful possession of a weapon.
Project Safe Surrender and other initiatives like it, including gun buyback programs that occur in Newark and other urban areas of New Jersey, can be a safe way to get unwanted guns off the streets. But, these types of programs are rife with potential pitfalls that could mean legal problems for you or someone you love.
If you’ve found yourself in trouble with the law, contact criminal defense attorney Jack Venturi for help. Jack Venturi can be reached at 732-247-3340 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.Instagram