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How Does an Arrest Impact Your Gun Rights in New Jersey?

May 17, 2024 | Posted In Criminal Law

If you’ve been arrested for a crime in New Jersey, you probably have many questions. One of these questions may be, “How will my arrest impact my gun rights?” While the right to bear arms is one of the most fundamental rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution, this right is not absolute. You can lose your right to own a gun if you get convicted of a crime—and this is just one of many reasons why it is important to have an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney on your side.

Even though the right to bear arms is in the U.S. Constitution, the states have the power to restrict individuals’ gun rights in certain circumstances. New Jersey, like many states, has passed laws that restrict citizens’ gun rights following certain types of convictions.

In New Jersey, You Can Lose Your Gun Rights After a Conviction

Before we discuss New Jersey’s law on gun rights and criminal convictions, it is important to note that Congress has taken steps to limit convicted criminals’ access to firearms as well. Under the Gun Control Act of 1968, anyone who has been convicted of a felony is prohibited from possessing a gun. For purposes of the Gun Control Act, a “felony” is defined as a crime “punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.”

While New Jersey doesn’t use the term “felony,” if you get convicted of an indictable offense in New Jersey, you can lose your gun rights under the Gun Control Act. Indictable offenses are comparable to felonies in other states (and under federal law), and in New Jersey, all indictable crimes carry the possibility of at least 18 months in prison—and, in some cases, much more.

Now, let’s take a look at New Jersey law.

Under New Jersey law, you can lose your gun rights if you get convicted of any crime listed in Section 2C:39-7 of the New Jersey Revised Statutes. Section 2C:39-7 also provides that you can lose your gun rights if you get convicted of a disorderly persons offense in some cases. Criminal convictions that will result in the loss of your gun rights include those for:

  • Aggravated assault
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Arson
  • Bias intimidation
  • Burglary
  • Carjacking
  • Endangering the welfare of a child
  • Escape
  • Extortion
  • Gang criminality
  • Homicide
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery
  • Sexual assault
  • Racketeering
  • Terroristic threats
  • Unlawful possession of a machine gun, handgun or assault firearm
  • Unlawful use, possession or sale of drugs

To qualify as a “crime” under Section 2C:39-7, an offense must carry a jail or prison term of at least six months. However, as noted above, the law also applies to disorderly persons offenses in some cases. Specifically, if you are convicted of a disorderly persons offense that is classified as domestic violence under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA), you can lose your gun rights regardless of the other penalties that the court has the ability to impose.

If you are facing a domestic violence charge, it is also important to note that you can have your firearms taken away before your trial. If the police didn’t seize your weapons at the time of your arrest (which they have the authority to do in many domestic violence cases), you could lose your right to possess firearms if the alleged victim obtains a restraining order against you.

What Happens if You Get Caught Illegally Possessing a Gun?

Let’s say you lose your gun rights as the result of a conviction or a domestic violence arrest. What happens if you get caught illegally possessing a gun? In New Jersey, this is a serious offense.

Under Section 2C:39-7, illegally possessing a gun after a criminal conviction is a second-degree indictable offense. Second-degree indictable offenses carry up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Additionally, Section 2C:39-7 provides that anyone who is convicted of “a disorderly persons offense involving domestic violence, whether or not armed with or having in the person's possession a weapon,” is guilty of a third-degree indictable offense. Third-degree indictable offenses carry three to five years of prison time and a $15,000 fine.

Can You Restore Your Gun Rights After a Criminal Conviction in New Jersey?

If you lose your gun rights following an arrest in New Jersey, is it possible to have your gun rights restored? The short answer is, “It depends.”

Generally speaking, you can have your gun rights restored if you get your record expunged. As the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) explains:

“Felons whose convictions have been set aside or expunged, or for which the person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored are not considered convicted under [the Gun Control Act], unless that person was expressly prohibited by the law of the jurisdiction in which the proceedings were held from possessing firearms.”

The same is generally true under New Jersey law as well—if you get your record expunged, you can seek restoration of your gun rights as well. However, many of the offenses listed above are not eligible for expungement under New Jersey law. Additionally, regardless of whether you may eventually become eligible for expungement, you owe it to yourself to fight your charge by all means available. Losing your gun rights is just one of several consequences you may be facing, and by hiring an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney to represent you, you can be confident that you are doing everything possible to protect your legal rights, your freedom and your future.

Contact a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.

If you are facing charges in New Jersey, we strongly encourage you to contact us for more information. With multiple office locations across the state, we provide legal representation statewide. To speak with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. in confidence as soon as possible, call 877-435-6371 or tell us how we can reach you online now.

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