Possession of a Weapon for Unlawful Purpose Middlesex County NJ Lawyers
Have you been arrested for possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose? When charges of this kind are issued in Middlesex County, a conviction could result in you being incarceratd for up to 10 years. New Jersey is very progressive in its view of weapons offenses. Since the state has some of the strictest weapons and guns laws in the entire country, a conviction for a weapons charge usually results in mandatory incarceration in state prison. The degree of your charges for possessing a weapon with unlawful purposes are determined by the type of weapon involved in the offense. Regardless of whether you have been charged with a second degree or third degree violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4, your case will be heard in Middlesex County Superior Court and the results could mean significant prison time. Will Proetta, our firm’s founding attorney, has represented defendants against a wide array of crimes and charges over the years, including possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes or other violations of NJ Gun Laws. At the Law Offices of Proetta & Oliver, our criminal defense lawyers represent clients facing guns and weapons charges throughout Middlesex County and New Jersey, including in New Brunswick, Plainsboro, Piscataway, South Plainfield, Woodbridge, Cranbury, Carteret, and Edison. To learn more about how we can assist you with your charges contact us at (732) 659-9600 for a free consultation with an experienced Middlesex County weapons attorney.
Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4
A possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose offense occurs when an individual arms himself with the intent of using the weapon against another in a criminal manner. According to the New Jersey Law on possession of weapons for unlawful purposes, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4, any person who possesses a firearm with the purpose of using it unlawfully against another person or property is guilty of a second degree crime. It is also a second degree crime to possess explosives, a destructive device, or a community gun with unlawful purpose. When the weapon in question is an imitation firearm, a violation of this section is a fourth degree crime. In all other cases, it is a third degree crime for a person to possess any weapon with the purpose to use it unlawfully against other persons or property.
Definition of Weapons for Crime
One of the critical elements that the prosecutor must prove to obtain a conviction for possession of a weapon with an unlawful purpose in New Jersey is that the item is, in fact, a weapon under New Jersey law. To fulfill this weapons requirement, the item found in your possession must be readily capable of inflicting serious bodily injury or immediately capable of lethal use. While typical weapons that come to mind include guns, rifles, and the like, other weapons include dangerous knives, metal knuckles, stun guns, tear gas, and anything else that can be used to inflict physical harm.
Penalties for Possessing a Weapon with Unlawful Purposes in New Jersey
The potential sentence for possession of a weapon with an unlawful purpose is contingent upon the type of weapon found in the defendant’s possession at the time of the offense. The most serious charges for this offense are second degree, followed by third degree, and then fourth degree. Accordingly, a second degree charge entails harsher punishments than a charge for a fourth degree offense of this type. Below is a useful outline of possible penalties for violating 2C:39-4:
Second Degree – The possession of either a firearm, explosive or destructive device with a purpose to use it unlawfully against the property or person of another is a crime of the second degree.
Third Degree – Possession of a weapon other than a firearm with a purpose to use it unlawfully against the person or property of another is a crime of the third degree.
Fourth Degree – It is a fourth degree crime to possess an imitation firearm under circumstances that would lead an observer to reasonably believe that it is possessed for an unlawful purpose.
Notably, possessing a firearm with unlawful purposes is subject to additional sentencing requirements in New Jersey’s Graves Act. The Graves Act imposes mandatory parole ineligibility for defendants convicted of possession of a firearm with the intent to use it either against the person or the property of another.
Defenses for Possession of a Weapon with Unlawful Purpose
Unlike the common defense to other violent crimes such as murder or aggravated assault, the test for possessing a weapon for a lawful purpose is not whether the defendant was reasonable in his belief to possess the weapon for self defense, but whether the belief was honestly held. Honestly held belief in lawful possession may occur when:
- The defendant’s honest purpose in possessing and continuing to possess a weapon is to use it for sport, precaution or in a manner intended to cause no harm to another.
- Possession of the weapon for self-protection or the protection of others constitutes a defense to this offense.
- Intoxication may be a defense to the element of purposeful action of this offense.
* It should be noted that inoperability of the gun in and of itself does not negate the unlawful purpose.
Possession is divided into two categories. These are actual possession and constructive possession. Actual possession is sometimes referred to as manual possession. This means that the defendant has direct physical control over the object. In contrast, constructive possession occurs when the defendant does not have the item on his person, but is aware of its presence and is able to exercise control over it and has a purpose to exercise control over it. In some cases, it will be impossible to define with precision the exact crime or crimes the defendant intended to commit with a firearm. However, the State is not obligated to prove the exact details of the intended crime such as when it would occur or the identity of the person or property targeted.
Contact a Piscataway NJ Gun Possession Lawyer for More Information
Weapon and gun crimes are very serious and require the skills of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. This is because these charges are inherently complicated. The issues of merger and less included offenses are complex when applied to weapons offenses. For example, the possession of a weapon without a permit does not merge into the offense of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. Moreover, merger is not required when the defendant uses the firearm to commit a robbery or burglary and then uses the firearm to prevent witnesses from informing the police or uses the firearm to force persons to provide shelter. An experienced gun possession attorney can help you navigate the tricky court system and challenge the state’s case against you in an effort to have your charges downgraded or even dismissed altogether. Contact our office at (732) 659-9600 to learn more about potential representation for your weapons charges during a free consultation with an experienced Middlesex County weapons defense lawyer.