Bergen County Gun Lawyers
Here in New Jersey, we have some of the strictest gun laws in America. The No Early Release Act (“NERA”) and the Graves Act subjects you to face not only mandatory prison time, but years behind bars and ineligibility for parole if you are convicted of a weapons or gun violation(s). What that means is that you’ll have to serve at least eighty-five (85%) percent of your sentence before you’re eligible for parole. Gun charges carry serious consequences since it is an indictable (felony) crime. Even though the laws are strict here in New Jersey, you still have rights and you still have the opportunity to defend yourself against gun charges and gun violations. If you or a loved has been charged with a gun crime here in Bergen County, the case will most likely take place at the Bergen County Superior Court. The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office will likely be the office representing the government in you or your loved one’s gun charge.
The Bergen County gun charge attorneys at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are experienced criminal defense attorneys as set forth below:
- We are a committed team of 11 criminal defense attorneys:
- More than half of our attorneys were former prosecutors
- One of our attorneys was the director of the Drug, Gang, and Gun Task Force during his tenure as an Assistant Prosecutor. This same attorney is one of the first lawyers to fight against NJ’s new “Red Flag Law” which restricts a person from having guns.
- Selected by Super Lawyers to their 2020 New Jersey Rising Stars list. This is an exclusive list, recognizing no more than 2.5% of attorneys in New Jersey.
- Selected to the National Trial Lawyers Top 100 as well as the Top 40 Under 40.
Hackensack Gun Offenses & Gun Charges Attorneys
In Bergen County, you can be charged with a crime if you have an illegal weapon or gun in your possession, or if you possess a gun and intend to use it for an illegal activity. Some of the most common cases we see here in New Jersey are gun owners who had a permit from another jurisdiction (such as Pennsylvania) and drove into New Jersey, got pulled over and the police found the gun. Even though you or your loved one had a legal permit in another jurisdiction, it is still illegal to possess that gun here in New Jersey unless you have a gun permit. Another common example is forgetting you placed your in gun your carry-on bag and walking through airport security with it. If you or a loved one has been convicted of an act of domestic violence (even a petty disorderly persons offense of harassment counts) or has a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) or a Final Restraining Order (FRO), you or your loved one is not allowed to possess any gun in the state of New Jersey. At the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, our firm represents people who are charged with a range of gun offenses, including
- Unlawful Possession of a Weapon
- Possession of a Weapon for Unlawful Purposes
- Possession of a Firearm without a valid permit
- Certain Persons Not to be in Possession of a Firearm
- BB / Airsoft / Paintball Guns
I’ve Been Charged with a Gun Crime, how serious is it?
If you or your loved one does not possess a valid gun permit here in the state of New Jersey, the consequences can be dire. Depending on what the police found at the time of your arrest can determine what the gun charge you or your loved one will be facing at the Bergen County Courthouse. Depending on what the police found below is likely the charge you’ll be facing in court:
- Unlawful possession of a rifle, shotgun, air or spring gun= third (3rd) degree crime. Maximum of five (5) years in state prison if convicted.
- Unlawful possession of a handgun or assault rifle= second (2nd) degree crime. Maximum of ten (10) years in state prison if convicted.
- Unlawful possession of handguns without a permit= first degree crime. Maximum of twenty (20) years in state prison if convicted.
When our team of lawyers represents you or a loved one on these charges, we will examine all possible angles for the best possible defense that is applicable. Our firm recently was successful in getting our client into the Pretrial Diversion Program (PTI) even though this client was facing a second (2nd) degree gun charge. PTI affords the defendant the opportunity to get their case dismissed. As such, depending on the circumstances of your case, we may be able to seek dismissal of the charges or challenge evidence in the case on the basis that police violated your Constitutional rights. Although our attorneys will consider alternative resolutions to your case, if it is in your best interests we are not afraid to take a case to trial.
What is a Graves Act Waiver?
Before discussing the waivers that may be applicable to you or your loved ones case, it is probably pertinent to know what the Graves Act encompasses. Before 2008, the Graves Act only included the possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose and possession of a firearm during the course of committing certain specified predicate crimes. On January 13, 2008, the law changed and included the unlawful simple possession of a handgun. What this did was included the simple possession of a handgun without a permit here in New Jersey at the time of you or your loved ones arrest. Even if you or your loved one weren’t doing anything illegal with the handgun, it didn’t matter so long as you or your loved one didn’t have a valid permit here in New Jersey. Due to this expansion of the Graves Act, a good number of defendants charged with unlawful simple possession of a handgun had to serve a mandatory prison sentence. Some of these defendants included first time offenders, whom most had a valid permit back in their home state but were either driving through New Jersey when they got pulled over or forgot to take it out of their car while visiting New Jersey.
On September 24, 2014, however, the Attorney General of New Jersey issued a directive to all prosecutors that somewhat relaxed the Graves Act waiver. The reason was that a case drew headlines, and because of this case the Division of Criminal Justice asked all county prosecutors to determine how cases where a defendant legally purchased a firearm in their home state and reasonably believed that it was also legally to carry the weapon here in New Jersey. The September 24, 2014 provided further guidance to prosecutors where the above situation or similar situations occurred and if so to apply the following factors:
- The manner and circumstances of the possession minimized the exposure of the firearm to others in this State, thereby reducing the risk of harm.
- The typical scenario for this is where the defendant kept the handgun in the trunk of the car rather on him/her or near him/her as well as that they were just travelling through the state rather than having an extended stay here in New Jersey.
- The defendant is otherwise a law-abiding citizen.
- This one is straightforward, it simply means that the defendant does not have a criminal record.
- The defendant on his or her own initiative advised a police officer that a firearm was present.
- This one is a little tricky since it tends to mean that the defendant voluntarily told the police officer that there was a handgun in the vehicle and that he/she believed it was legal to have that handgun in the car. If the officer has to ask if there is anything else in the car and the defendant offers this information up, it tends to negate the voluntariness. If the defendant during questioning tries to hide the fact that there is a handgun in the vehicle, then obviously this will be seen as knowing that having a handgun on him/her without a valid permit here in New Jersey was illegal.
- The defendant presented an unloaded firearm to a hotel clerk for safekeeping to prevent it from being stolen from defendant’s vehicle during a hotel stay.
- This one is also straightforward. Pretty much the defendant hands over his or her handgun to a hotel clerk so that it will not be stolen and presumably used in the commission of a crime and/or accidentally discharged.
- The defendant had not been advised of limitations on the right to possess or carry a firearm.
- The common response when a defendant is charged with unlawful possession of a handgun but he/she has a legal permit in their home state is that they didn’t know they had to get a permit here in New Jersey or that the permit didn’t extend to other states. This factor tries to delineate whether the defendant was expressly told by his or her home state whether or not he or she was informed that their permit is only valid in their home state and does not extend to other jurisdictions such as New Jersey.
If you or your loved one’s case is similar to the above, i.e., that they legally purchased and had a lawful permit for his/her handgun in their home state, then the September 24, 2014 Attorney General Directive may be applicable to you or your loved one. What this means is this that the Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI), a diversionary program, is potentially available. If the Prosecutor consents, and with the judge’s approval, you or your loved one can have your case dismissed and expunged if you or your loved one successfully completes the PTI Program.
Lastly, please keep in mind that not only is the Graves Act applicable with a weapons offense, but another severe penalty which often comes into play with certain weapons offenses in New Jersey is the No Early Release Act, (“NERA”) which in pertinent part requires an individual to serve at least 85% of their sentence before they become eligible for parole. This is similar to the Graves Act where the defendant still must serve 85% of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole. The main distinction, however, is that the Graves Act only applies to weapons offenses whereas the No Early Release Act applies to numerous cases, ranging from murder to aggravated sexual assault and so forth.
I Was Charged with a Domestic Violence Incident but no guns were involved, why did they take my guns?
If you or your loved one was charged with a domestic violence offense, the law requires that you or your loved ones guns be taken away. This includes petty disorderly and disorderly persons offenses (PDP & DP) such as harassment and simple assault. The other scenario is if a TRO has been issued against you, then the police must confiscate your guns. If the TRO or PDP/DP offenses were dismissed, it does not mean that your gun(s) will automatically be returned to you or your loved one. In order for your gun or guns to be returned, a weapons forfeiture hearing will be likely be conducted in front of a Bergen County Superior Court judge along with an assistant prosecutor from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. At this hearing, the judge will determine, after hearing both sides, whether your gun or guns will be returned to you.
What is the NJ Red Flag Law?
New Jersey’s Red Flag Law, also known as the Extreme Risk Protective Order Act, allows police to seize you or your loved one’s guns. This is a petition that can virtually be filled out and filed by anyone. In this petition, the petitioner will detail why you or your loved one’s guns should be seized and kept away from you since you or your loved one potentially poses as a threat to yourself or to others. This law went into effect September, 2019. As explained above, our law firm was one of the first to combat this law in a hearing.
Hackensack Gun Attorneys
As stated earlier, the penalties if convicted of certain weapons offenses can have severe consequences on your life, which include lengthy state prison sentences. If you have been charged with any of the aforementioned crimes in towns like Hackensack, Teaneck, Fort Lee, East Rutherford, Edgewater, Montvale and Ramsey it is imperative that you speak to an experienced criminal defense trial attorney about your options. As you can see from above, there are certain waivers that an experienced criminal defense attorney can obtain in order to keep you from being incarcerated. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact any one of our Bergen County offices to speak to one of our experienced attorneys about your rights. We fully understand that being charged with a criminal offense can be absolutely devastating let alone an offense that requires mandatory incarceration. As such we make ourselves available 24/7 to help assist in any way possible. We can be reached directly at 201.201.0086.