New Jersey Gun Charges for Pennsylvania Resident
November 13, 2020
One of the most common misconceptions amongst gun owners traveling through New Jersey is that their home state license/permit gives them reciprocity to carry in New Jersey. That is simply not the case. While Pennsylvania gun owners have reciprocity to carry their weapon in States like Ohio, Virginia, Indiana and West Virginia, this reciprocity does not extend to states like New Jersey.
Our office is frequently called by Pennsylvania residents who were arrested and charged with Unlawful Possession of a Handgun. Typically, these individuals forgot that they even had a gun in the glove box or trunk of the vehicle before they drove to New Jersey. Whether you voluntarily told the officers about the gun or if they found it during a search of the vehicle, you will likely find yourself in handcuffs and facing serious criminal charges in New Jersey.
Will I Go to Jail for Unlawful Possession of a Handgun in New Jersey?
You will almost certainly be arrested and taken to the local police department if you are found carrying a handgun in New Jersey without a permit and without the having properly secured the weapon in your vehicle. If you are caught with a handgun, then you are facing a second degree indictable offense. Because of New Jersey strict gun laws, you will likely be held on a warrant complaint and detained at least until your initial hearing with a judge.
Assuming the State does not file for Pretrial Detention or if you win your Pretrial Detention Hearing, then you will be released while your case moves forward. However, because of the Graves Act criminal charges involving handguns, rifles and machine guns require mandatory incarceration and parole ineligibility periods for those convicted. For example, if you are charged with Unlawful Possession of a Handgun, the Graves Act requires that the judge sentence you to to a period of parole ineligibility of atleast 42 months in a New Jersey Correctional Facility.
How to Win My Detention Hearing for a Gun Charge?
Under New Jersey’s Criminal Justice Reform, defendant’s are rarely burdened by monetary bail. Instead, the courts are relying on the facts of the case and Public Safety Assessments in releasing or detaining defendant’s facing weapons offenses. To properly defend yourself at a Detention Hearing, you must first understand what evidence you are entitled to from the State. This evidence includes:
- The Complaint;
- Preliminary law enforcement incident report (PLEIR) concerning the allegations and the affidavit of probable cause;
- Statements and reports supporting the affidavit of probable cause;
- Other statements or reports relating to State’s evidence the State relies on in support of their probable cause;
- Statements and reports relating to the factors listed in N.J.S.A. 2A:162- 18(a)(1) that the State advances at the hearing; and
- Any exculpatory evidence.
In addition to the evidence in your case, the Court will also review the Public Safety Assessment (PSA) that is provided by Pretrial Services. This report will make a recommendation for release or detention based on an analysis of your criminal history, prior non-appearances in court and the severity of the present criminal charges. Understanding the factors used by Pretrial Services to determine a “recommendation” is crucial. In previous cases, we have successfully attacked the basis for a recommendation of detention when Pretrial Services does not assess the factors correctly.
Can A Pennsylvania Gun Owner Avoid Jail for Gun Charge in New Jersey?
Depending on the facts of your case, it is possible for a licensed Pennsylvania gun owner to avoid incarceration in New Jersey for Unlawful Possession of a Handgun. Specifically, our firm has helped clients who carelessly drove through New Jersey with a handgun or rifle in their car without realizing that their license in Pennsylvania did not extend into New Jersey. Part of this is due to the complicated reciprocity laws amongst the States. Even for those who are not licensed in Pennsylvania, it is still possible to obtain a downward departure in the strict sentencing guidelines for gun possession cases when there are supporting legal arguments available. To decrease your possible prison sentence or avoid incarceration altogether, you will need to obtain a “Graves Act Waiver”.
A Graves Act Waiver allows the judge to depart from the mandatory sentencing guidelines of the Graves Act and provide certain defendants with lower prison sentences, probation or PTI. However, these waivers are not just handed out without any first demonstrating grounds for such relief. Typically, the court will consider the following before approving a Graves Act Waiver:
- The manner and circumstances of the possession as it relates to the exposure of the firearm to others in this State;
- Defendant’s criminal history, or lack thereof;
- Did the defendant on his or her own initiative advise a police officer that a firearm is present;
- Did the defendant surrender an unloaded firearm for safe-keeping;
- Was the defendant ignorant of the limitations on his permit to possess a weapon in New Jersey due to their lawful ability to possess a weapon in their home state.
Each factor will be given a different level of weight on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, you should consult with an attorney about how these factors might apply to your case.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Gun Charges in New Jersey?
New Jersey’s laws relating to guns, search & seizure and criminal procedure are complicated. Having a experienced criminal defense attorney review the facts and circumstances of your case. New Jersey Gun Possession Attorney William Fay can assess the strength and weakness in the State’s case to determine the best method to fight the charges you are facing and the viability of getting your gun case dismissed through PTI or help you avoid mandatory incarceration. If you need to discuss your case or if you have a family member who is sitting the county jail on gun charges, call our local office today at (609)-850-8284.