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New Jersey weapons offenses 3: Certain persons can't have weapons

Recently, we've been discussing what sorts of things New Jersey considers to be weapon crimes. As we've mentioned before, there are four main types of weapon offenses under New Jersey law, not including charges arising because a weapon was used in the commission of another crime. We've already discussed two types -- possession of weapons that are prohibited altogether, and possessing weapons without the appropriate licenses or permits. Today, we'll go over the third type: possession of weapons by people who can't legally have them.

One important note: We're only covering weapons offenses as defined in New Jersey law. The federal government also has criminal statutes involving possessing or using weapons, and those laws can be different from state law. In any case, you should never consider a blog post to be equivalent to specific legal advice.

Some people can't legally own weapons at all

New Jersey law prohibits three groups of people from owning any weapon as defined in New Jersey Statutes 2C:39-1 (r). Essentially, that definition includes firearms, whether operable or not; full sets of gun components; dangerous knives; stun guns , pepper spray or tear gas weapons; and prohibited weapons like switchblades.

People who are prohibited from owning weapons are:

  1. People with certain serious criminal convictions on their records.
  2. People with domestic violence convictions.
  3. People previously committed to mental institutions for a mental disorder that interferes with or handicaps their use of a firearm, unless they have a certificate showing they no longer suffer from that disorder.

A person in the third group found in possession of a weapon would face charges in the fourth degree. If you were a member of one of the first two groups and are caught with a weapon, you could be charged with a second-, third- or fourth-degree crime. Which one depends mainly on the seriousness of your previous conviction and what weapon you were caught with.

For example, suppose you were previously convicted of assault. If you got caught with a stun gun, you would probably be charged with a fourth-degree crime. If you were caught with a shotgun, however, you could be charged with a second-degree crime, which is much more serious.

Next week, we'll cover the crime of possessing a weapon for unlawful purposes. If you have specific questions about weapons and prohibited persons, visit our website or give us a call.

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