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Last updated on February 8, 2024

What are the Penalties for Illegal Firearm Possession in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, we have some of the most stringent firearms laws in the nation. Consequently, it’s no surprise that penalties for possession can be equally serious. Any single firearms conviction can result in a minimum of 5 years in prison and extensive fines. 

If you find yourself facing accusations of illegal firearm possession in New Jersey, it is crucial to seek the help of a skilled New Jersey gun possession attorney. At Lustberg Law Offices, our experienced attorneys may be able to offer invaluable support in safeguarding your rights and freedom. Schedule a free consultation with us today at (201) 880-5311 to help ensure the best outcome possible in your circumstance.

Firearms possession charges fall under various categories, and, depending on the crime, you may be facing one or several charges. These include:

  • Unlawful possession of weapons if you have been found with a firearm and don’t have a permit to carry that firearm
  • Unlawful possession of an illegal weapon you have been found with specific firearms that are unlawful in the state
  • Certain persons not to have weapons if you have been found with a firearm but are designated as someone who is prohibited from possessing one
  • Possessing a weapon for unlawful purposes if you are found with a firearm with the intention of using it in an unlawful manner
  • Possessing a firearm during the commission of a CDS/bias crime if you were found with a firearm while you were committing a drug-related or intimidation crime 

Depending on the type of weapon and specific offense, each carries its own spectrum of penalties. Furthermore, penalties increase if your offense falls under the Graves Act.

If you are facing charges of illegal firearm possession, it is important to seek the help of an experienced New Jersey gun possession lawyer. Having a skilled attorney may be able to help you understand what your rights are and help you protect your freedom. 

Unlawful Possession

Unlawful possession penalties will depend on the type of firearm you were found possessing. Possession of a rifle or shotgun without a firearms ID card can result in 3 to 5 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines. Unlawful possession of a handgun without a permit to carry is a second-degree crime that can result in 5 to 10 years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines. Because unlawful possession of a handgun falls under the Graves Act, a minimum mandatory jail sentence applies. 

Unlawful Possession of an Illegal Weapon

Some firearms are unlawful to possess in New Jersey under any circumstances. A conviction is considered a third-degree crime and can result in 3 to 5 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines. 

Certain Persons Conviction

If you are someone who has a prior conviction and is not allowed to possess a firearm if you are found with one in your possession, it can result in 5 to 10 years in prison and you will not be eligible for parole for a minimum of 5 years.

Possession of a Firearm for an Unlawful Purpose

Possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose is also a second-degree crime punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison and up to $150,000. It also falls under the Graves Act.

What is Considered a Weapon in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, the definition of a ‘weapon’ extends beyond conventional firearms and knives. According to the law, any object that is readily capable of lethal use or inflicting serious bodily injury may be considered a weapon. This broad definition can include an array of items, even surprisingly, a person’s fists.

Explicitly listed as weapons in New Jersey are Billy Clubs, Blackjacks, and Bludgeons — all blunt objects designed for combat. Brass or Metal Knuckles, which enhance the force of a punch, are likewise included. Cestuses, an ancient armament consisting of leather bands studded with metal filings or razor blades embedded in wood, also make the list.

Bladed weapons such as Daggers, Dirks, Gravity Knives, and Stilettos are considered weapons due to their potential to cause severe harm. Switchblade Knives, with their spring-loaded blades, are specifically mentioned due to their concealed and sudden lethality.

Firearms, as expected, are on the list due to their inherent lethal potential. Stun Guns, although designed to incapacitate rather than kill, are classified as weapons because they can cause serious bodily harm.

Finally, even some less conventional items are considered weapons in New Jersey, including Sand Clubs and Slingshots. These items, while perhaps seen as rudimentary or even toys in some contexts, can indeed inflict significant harm.

New Jersey Graves Act

The state of New Jersey takes weapons offenses very seriously, and there have been numerous cases where innocent individuals have been incarcerated due to the state’s strict gun laws. These laws are encompassed in a section of the law known as the Graves Act, which imposes severe penalties on individuals convicted of possessing certain weapons. The Graves Act is defined within the New Jersey Criminal Code, specifically referenced as N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6.

According to the Graves Act, individuals who are discovered with a firearm or commit specific crimes while possessing a firearm are subject to mandatory minimum prison sentences. Consequently, those convicted of a Graves Act offense must serve a minimum of one-third to one-half of their sentence, or a minimum of 42 months (whichever is longer), before they become eligible for parole. 

The Graves Act covers various prohibited weapons that carry substantial penalties, including: 

  • Handguns
  • Rifles
  • Machine guns
  • Shotguns
  • Sawed-off shotguns
  • Defaced firearms

Specific offenses that fall under the Graves Act include:

  • Unlawful possession (without a permit, license, or registration) of machine guns, handguns, rifles, or shotguns, classified as a second-degree offense.
  • Possessing a sawed-off shotgun is categorized as a third-degree offense. Owning a defaced firearm, classified as a fourth-degree offense.
  • Possessing a firearm during the commission of an offense involving controlled dangerous substances (CDS) is classified as a second-degree offense.
  • Possessing a firearm as a prohibited person, classified as a second-degree offense.

Additionally, according to the Graves Act, engaging in activities such as manufacturing, transporting, or disposing of machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, or assault firearms is classified as a third-degree offense. Similarly, defacing firearms is also considered a third-degree offense.

If you have specific questions about the Graves Act or need further information, it is recommended to consult with a New Jersey Graves Act lawyer. At Lustberg Law Offices, our lawyers can provide you with the guidance and representation you need if you are facing charges or have concerns related to the Graves Act. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a CDS or Bias Offense

Possession of a firearm during the commission of these offenses is considered a second-degree offense. Furthermore, if there is an additional conviction for possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, prison time must be served consecutively. 

Firearms Possession Charges in New Jersey Penalty
Unlawful Possession of Rifle/Shotgun 3 to 5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000
Unlawful Possession of Handgun Second-degree crime: 5 to 10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000
Unlawful Possession of Illegal Weapon Third-degree crime: 3 to 5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000
Possession of Firearm for Unlawful Purpose Second-degree crime: 5 to 10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000
Possession of Firearm During CDS or Bias Offense Second-degree offense, additional conviction for unlawful purpose requires consecutive prison sentences
Illegal firearm possession lawyer in New Jersey

What Does The State Need to Prove in Order to Charge Someone With Possession Of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose?

In order to convict a person of possession with an unlawful purpose charge, the State must prove that the defendant possessed the weapon with the intent to use it illegally and that it was intended to be used unlawfully against another person or property. The N.J.S.A. 2C:39-1 defines the types of weapons that may be unlawfully possessed including handguns, rifles, shotguns, imitation firearms, explosives, and more. 

The type of weapon used determines the degree of an unlawful purpose offense. The type of weapon involved in the charge will also determine the sentence for the accused, whether they will face a mandatory minimum sentence, or whether a presumption of incarceration will apply to their case. To comply with the law, the accused may have to face prison time along with additional requirements as those mandated by Graves Act. 

If you are facing charges of illegal firearm possession, it is important to seek the legal representation of an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer right away. An experienced lawyer may be able to help you protect your rights and your freedom.

While firearms possession is treated harshly in New Jersey, there may be several defense options available to you if you have been charged with possession. At Lustberg Law Offices, we provide diligent legal defense for individuals who have been charged with gun possession in New Jersey. Call us at (201) 880-5311 or contact us online to discuss your charges. 

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