Possession of an Illegal Weapon

Hamilton NJ Illegal Weapon Lawyers

New Jersey Law prohibits the possession of certain weapons that are deemed “illegal” under any circumstance. The broad list of weapons that are unlawful include a sawed off shotgun, defaced firearm, hollow tip bullets, hand-cuffs, a stun gun and high capacity ammunition magazine. At the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, our criminal defense lawyers aggressively represent people who have been accused of illegal and prohibited weapon violations throughout Mercer County, including clients charged in Hamilton, Trenton, Ewing, East Windsor and Lawrence Township. We will identify your best possible legal defense and tenaciously pursue it and any others available throughout the case. Although a plea bargain is a good alternative in some cases, our attorneys are fully prepared to go to the mat for you, because criminal defense is our passion. If you would like to speak to an attorney on our staff about the circumstances that led to your offense, contact our Hamilton Office or another one of our Mercer County locations for a free consultation. A lawyer is available 24/7 at 609–683–8102.

Elements of the Offense

Possession of a prohibited weapon, as outlined in N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3, is either a fourth degree or third degree crime. There are three basic components or requirements to an illegal/prohibited weapon charge that the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office must prove beyond reasonable doubt, including:

  • Illegal Weapon : the object must be an illegal weapon such as a silencer, destructive device (e.g. bomb, explosives, etc.), body penetrating bullets such as hollow tip or Teflon coated ammunition, a defaced handgun or other firearm, switchblade, handcuffs, brass knuckles, stun gun or high capacity clip or magazine.
  • Possession : In many contexts, possession is synonymous with proximity. But in this context, possession really means custody and control.
  • Knowledge : You must know what the weapon is in order to be convicted under 2C:39-3. This does not mean knowledge, however, that the item is illegal but only what it is.

“Reasonable doubt” basically means that the prosecutor’s evidence is so overwhelming that the state’s version of events is the only plausible explanation. Despite the name, according to one prominent case, a jury only needs to be uncertain about the evidence to acquit the defendant.

Under 2C:39-3, a prohibited weapons includes:

  • Sawed-Off Shotguns : A shotgun must be altered or shortened in such a way as to be considered “sawed off” in violation of this law. Possession of a sawed off shotgun is a third degree crime.
  • Silencer : Although not a “destructive device” in and of itself, silencers make guns much more dangerous and serve little or no other purpose besides violence against another person. It is a fourth degree crime to possess a silencer in violation of 2C:39-3(c).
  • Defaced Weapons : Typically, this offense involves filing off a gun’s serial number or other identifying information. Antique firearms are exempt. In accordance with 2C:39-3(d) possessing a defaced handgun, rifle or other firearm is a fourth degree crime.
  • Armor-Piercing Ammunition : Unless the person is a law enforcement officer, a certified firearms collector, or another exception applies, it is illegal to possess dum-dum or hollow point rounds. Possession of armor piercing ammunition such as hollow tips or Teflon coated bullets is a fourth degree crime under 2C:39-3(f).

It is also illegal to possess a “gravity knife, switchblade knife, dagger, dirk, stiletto, billy, blackjack, metal knuckle, sandclub, slingshot, cestus or similar leather band studded with metal filings or razor blades imbedded in wood, [or] ballistic knife” if the person does not have “any explainable lawful purpose.”

Penalties for Possessing an Illegal or Prohibited Weapon

If you are convicted for possessing an illegal weapon (a.k.a. prohibited weapon), you face a sentencing for either a fourth degree crime or third degree crime depending on the object involved. A fourth degree crime carries up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. A third degree crime results in maximum penalties that include up to 5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Legal Aspects

Under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-2, if a person is in a house or car where there is a silencer, hollow point ammunition, or another illegal weapon, that person is presumed to possess that weapon unless it is “out of view.” This provision relates to the knowledge element mentioned earlier.

Furthermore, in weapons license cases, the burden shifts to the defendant, because the defendant must present evidence of a valid permit as opposed to the state presenting evidence of an invalid one. The same principle applies in traffic ticket cases, where for example, the driver has the burden of showing that s/he had a valid license, as opposed to the state having the burden to show otherwise.

Possible Defenses

If the defendant has no criminal history and meets other eligibility requirements, prosecutors usually recommend a deferred disposition program. Defendants who successfully complete these programs, which normally involve a court supervision period, a fine, and a counselling class, have their cases dismissed.

At trial, the proximity-versus-possession defense is often available. Note that the legal presumption mentioned above says that the possession presumption does not apply to an “out of view” weapon. Although the examples given are a glove compartment and a trunk, if the weapon is out of view under a seat, the accused person may have a defense. In this instance, the weapon is literally out of sight and out of mind, because the prosecutor may be hard-pressed to sufficiently establish the requisite knowledge element.

Defenses like this one are also useful plea-bargaining tools, because an experienced attorney can leverage them to obtain more favorable terms.

Ewing NJ Prohibited Weapon Possession Defense Lawyer

Ewing is one of the most populated municipalities in Mercer County and is also adjacent to Trenton so it has more than a few prohibited weapons cases annually. If you have been charged in this or another area municipality such as Princeton, West Windsor, Hopewell Township, Hightstown or Pennington, a defense lawyer at our firm has the knowledge and skill to help you avoid a conviction. There is a significant difference between a criminal charge and a criminal conviction which requires that the state prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. A former prosecutor or another experienced attorney at the Marshall Firm is ready to make such the state does not sustain its burden. To speak to an attorney now, contact our firm at 609–683–8102.

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