Four Ways to Commit Weapons Offenses in New Jersey

By Anthony N. Palumbo, Criminal Defense Attorney
Visit my website at: www.palumbo-renaud.com

There are four general ways to be convicted of a weapons offense in New Jersey. First, it is illegal to possess certain weapons that are very dangerous. Second, weapons cannot be possessed for an illegal purpose, meaning for the purpose of committing a crime. Third, it is illegal to possess certain weapons without a license or permit. Finally, there are certain people who based on their criminal record cannot have a weapon at all no matter what the circumstances are. This article will explain each of the four general ways to commit a weapons offense in New Jersey as well as the resulting penalties.

Prohibited Weapons
There are certain weapons that a person may not even have in their possession. These are known as prohibited weapons and devices and are considered so dangerous that there is no way to legally possess them. A permit will not be issued for these types of prohibited weapons. Prohibited weapons are divided into groups and possession of weapons in certain groups results in a greater crime. The more dangerous the weapon is, the higher the charge.

For example, it is a 3rd degree crime to knowingly possess any destructive devices or a sawed off shot gun. A conviction of a 3rd degree crime carries a prison sentence of up to 5 years.

However it is a 4th degree crime to knowingly possess a:

  • Silencer
  • Defaced firearm (except an antique firearm or antique handgun)
  • Stun gun
  • Gravity knife
  • Switchblade knife
  • Dagger, dirk
  • Stiletto
  • Billy
  • Blackjack
  • Metal knuckle
  • Sand club
  • Slingshot
  • Cestus
  • Ballistic knife
  • Any leather band studded with metal filings or razor blades imbedded in wood
  • Hollow bullets (those which penetrate bullet-proof vests)

A conviction of a 4th degree crime carries a prison sentence of up to 18 months. Also keep in mind that for many of these weapons there are exceptions for law enforcement officers, members of the armed forces, and weapons dealers and manufacturers. In addition, the law does not prohibit someone from purchasing hollow bullets and taking them back to his property.

Possession of Weapons for Unlawful Purposes
In New Jersey, a person cannot possess a weapon for an illegal purpose, meaning to commit a crime. Take a look at the following weapons and the charges that apply when a weapon is possessed for an illegal purpose.

It is a 2nd degree crime to possess firearms, explosives or destructive devices with the purpose to use them unlawfully against the person or property of another. A conviction of a 2nd degree crime carries a prison term of 5 to 10 years.

It is a 3nd degree crime to possess any other weapon for the purpose to use it unlawfully against the person or property of another. A conviction of a 3rd degree crime carries a prison term of up to 5 years.

It is a 4th degree crime to possess imitation firearms for the purpose to use them unlawfully against the person or property of another. A conviction of a 4th degree crime carries a prison term of up to 18 months.

Unlawful Possession of Weapons
For those weapons that are permitted under New Jersey law, it is still illegal to possess them without a license or permit. Depending on the weapon you lack a permit for, the charge will either be a third- or fourth-degree crime. For the following weapons it is a 3rd degree crime which crime carries a prison sentence of 3 to 5 years.

  • Machine guns
  • Handguns
  • Rifles
  • Shotgun
  • Assault firearm

It is a 4th degree crime to possess any other weapon without a license or permit. A conviction of a 4th degree crime carries a prison sentence of up to 18 months.

It is important to note that even when someone has a permit, there are certain places people are not allowed to have weapons. For example, it is a 3rd degree crime to have firearms on any part of a school regardless of whether you have the proper permit, and it is a disorderly persons offense to have an imitation weapon in any part of a school regardless of whether you have a permit. A disorderly persons offense carries penalties of up to 6 months in prison and $1,000 in fines.

Certain Persons Not to Have Weapons
In New Jersey, there are certain individuals who are not allowed to have weapons at all. For example, any person who has ever been committed to a mental hospital or any person who has ever been convicted of any crime (other than a disorderly persons offense) cannot possess a weapon and will be guilty of a 4th degree crime if they possess a weapon regardless of whether they have a permit. A 4th degree crime carries a prison sentence of up to 18 months.

For those individuals who cannot possess a weapon because they were previously convicted of a crime, depending on the crime the individual was convicted of the possession of a weapon may result in more than a 4th degree crime. For example, it is a 3rd degree crime to possess a weapon if you have ever been convicted of a disorderly persons offense involving Domestic Violence. Additionally, it is actually a second degree crime to possess a weapon if a person has been convicted of:

  • Aggravated assault
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Escape
  • Extortion
  • Homicide
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Bias intimidation
  • Endangering the welfare of a child
  • Stalking; or
  • A crime involving domestic violence

Weapons During the Commission of a Crime
Finally, it is also illegal to possess a weapon while committing a crime. Under the laws of New Jersey, if a person has a firearm during the course of committing, trying to commit, or conspiring to commit a crime that constitutes a 2nd degree crime. However, if someone has any other weapon besides a firearm in their possession while in the course of committing a crime, that person can also be charged with a 2nd degree crime, but that person must have the intent to use the weapon unlawfully against the person or property of another.

The difference between the two laws is that when someone possesses a firearm during a crime, that is enough to warrant a 2nd degree charge, but when someone possesses any other weapon besides a firearm, they need to have the intent to use it against someone during the crime in order to be charged in the 2nd degree.

New Jersey Weapons Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a weapons offense in New Jersey or simply have questions about weapons violations in New Jersey, I encourage you to visit my website at www.palumbo-renaud.com for more information pertaining to weapons violations in New Jersey. I am also always available to answer your questions by phone in a free consultation at 1-866-664-8118. It is important to obtain an experienced criminal lawyer in weapons offense cases in order to obtain the best available outcome against your charge. My name is Anthony N. Palumbo and I have been successfully defending people accused of weapons crimes in New Jersey for over 35 years.