Charged with a Crime for a Loaded Gun in NJ
Pulled Over with a Loaded Weapon in New Jersey?
New Jersey has some of the toughest gun laws in the entire country, and those tough gun laws also apply to people who are caught with a gun and/or ammunition in a motor vehicle. The truth is that it is quite common for motorists to find themselves pulled over with a weapon in their vehicle in New Jersey. Perhaps you stored the gun in your glove box while traveling, or maybe you put the gun in your car’s trunk and later forgot about it. Regardless of the circumstances, you could now be in serious legal trouble. That’s because anyone who is caught with a loaded handgun, rifle, or other firearm must have a carry permit, or they must meet one of the law’s few exceptions to this requirement. If you do not have a carry permit or meet one of the law’s limited exemptions, you can expect to be placed under arrest and charged with one or multiple crimes in connection with a loaded firearm. Moreover, a conviction on these types of felony weapons charges often carries a mandatory prison sentence.
In this serious predicament, it is a necessity that you speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer who can start building the strongest possible defense on your behalf and help you avoid the most severe penalties. Please contact our Jersey City criminal law firm if you or a loved one is facing charges for unlawfully possessing a weapon, ammunition, prohibited weapons and devices, or possession of a weapon during a drug offense. We offer free consultations anytime and we encourage you to call us at (201) 793-8018 if you have questions. To learn more about what happens when you are pulled over with a loaded gun in New Jersey, keep reading.
Common Charges You may Face for a Loaded Gun in NJ
The most common weapons offense in New Jersey, unlawful possession of a weapon, is set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5. This section of the NJ Criminal Code addresses the unlawful possession of various weapons, which is a felony-level offense and covers handguns, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, and other similar kinds of weapons. Basically, if a person is convicted of knowingly possessing one of these weapons without a valid license/permit, they are open to the possibility of being sentenced to significant time in state prison. This applies to loaded and unloaded firearms. It can apply to a vast array of scenarios as well, extending far beyond simply motor vehicle stoppages, to illegally possessed handguns and other weapons on the persons themselves as well as in homes, commercial environments, schools, and all types of property.
Moreover, with the exception of a police officer or military member who is traveling with the firearm while on duty, most situations require the person with the gun to transport it in a safe and secure manner. The statute, in N.J.S.A. 2C:39-6(g), sets forth the specific requirements for transporting a firearm, stipulating the following:
- Unloaded Weapon: The gun must be unloaded, with ammunition kept separate from the firearm. The gun cannot be loaded with bullets, even if the gun’s “safety” is on and even if the gun is not accessible by anyone inside the car.
- Gun Is Secured: The gun must be properly stored while driving, which means that the weapon is either secured inside a closed case or locked in the vehicle’s trunk. In other words, it should not be possible for the motorist or any passenger to quickly access the firearm from inside the vehicle.
- No Deviations in Travel: The person traveling with the gun must travel directly to their intended destination, with no unreasonable deviations. Generally speaking, it may be reasonable to stop for fuel at a gas station, to use a restroom, or to deal with an unexpected medical emergency.
It is extremely important to understand that you can be charged with a criminal weapons offense for violating these transportation laws on keeping ammunition and guns locked and separate while driving a vehicle, or for deviating during travel to or from your destination. Failure to obey these transportation requirements could result in you being charged with a gun crime for unlawfully possessing a weapon, even if you are otherwise legally allowed to possess the firearm.
How bad is a charge for having a loaded firearm?
The most serious charge you are likely to face for driving or otherwise having a loaded gun, is a charge for unlawful possession of a weapon, with N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5b addressing illegal handgun possession, and N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5c addressing illegal possession of rifles and shotguns. The type of gun matters here when it comes to the severity of the punishment. In particular, unlawful possession of a handgun is classified as a second degree indictable crime, which means that a conviction comes with a sentencing range of 5-10 years in state prison. Additionally, because the Graves Act applies to second degree gun crimes, there is a presumption of incarceration and a minimum mandatory prison sentence attached to these offenses.
On the other hand, unlawful possession of a rifle is classified as a third degree crime, and a conviction carries a possible sentence of 3-5 years in prison. Unlawful possession of a shotgun is also considered a third degree crime, so a conviction on these charges can result in the offender being sentenced to 3-5 years in prison.
Facing Ammunition Charges for a Loaded Gun in New Jersey
You could be charged with more offenses in a given case if you are arrested for illegally transporting a firearm with ammunition, or possessing a loaded gun without legal authorization to do so. That’s because NJ law treats guns and bullets separately. Certain types of ammunition are prohibited in New Jersey, such as hollow point ammunition. These are hollow nose or dum-dum bullets, and they are banned because they are capable of piercing body armor worn by police officers. If you are convicted on charges of possessing hollow point ammunition, you may be sentenced to up to 18 months in prison. Also, since these charges would be in addition to any other charges you already face for illegal possession of a gun, the sentences could be imposed consecutively, meaning you would have to serve both the sentence for illegal handgun possession and the sentence for unlawful possession of handgun ammunition.
New Jersey also has laws that place limits on the amount of ammunition that can be legally possessed when the bullets are contained in one magazine. N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3j specifically outlaws the possession of a large capacity ammunition magazine in most instances, which means any magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds. The idea behind this prohibition is to reduce the likelihood of a deadly mass shooting, since large capacity magazines can be used to fire many bullets very quickly. Since unlawful possession of a large capacity ammunition magazine is classified as a fourth degree felony, a conviction could result in you being sentenced to up to 18 months in prison. Again, this penalty would be in addition to any other penalties imposed for other charges in connection with illegally possessing a loaded gun.
Contact our Jersey City, NJ Office if You have been Arrested and Charged with Possessing a Loaded Firearm & Ammunition
The unanticipated consequences of a weapons charge can be catastrophic. And when the gun is loaded when found, this can make matters substantially worse. You need an aggressive defense strategy from a select group of criminal attorneys who know the laws on firearms intimately and have the confidence to defend your case. Contact our office in Jersey City at (201) 793-8018 for a free legal consultation with a gun lawyer today.