Security Guards: When, Why and How they can use Guns in New Jersey
Most of us have seen security guards armed with weapons in private or public locations. With the need for security personnel perhaps greater than ever, more and more people are considering this field. Unfortunately, the rules on guns for security guards in New Jersey are largely unknown among everday citizens and even those who work in the field on a regular basis. You may even be arrested with a firearm as a security guard without knowing that you are violating the law in some way. Here are the top things to know about NJ gun and weapons laws for security personnel. If you have been arrested with a gun in New Jersey and you work security, it is crucial to get knowledgeable legal counsel before taking any steps forward with your case. The criminal justice system treats weapons offenses very harshly and we should know, our highly skilled New Jersey gun lawyers defend clients facing these charges in courts across the state. Call us at (201) 614-2474 for a free consultation with an experienced attorney NJ gun lawyer today.
Does a Security Guard Need a Handgun Carry Permit in NJ?
Essentially, no one has a right to purchase, possess, or carry a gun in New Jersey unless they have obtained a permit for that intended purpose. If you are a security guard, these rules apply to you as well. Whether employed by a private security firm or if the person is an an off-duty officer, a permit to carry a handgun must be obtained through the state of New Jersey in order to do so. Additionally, if employed by a security firm, the employing agency as well as the individual must obtain an additional security license through the state.
What if I’m a Security Guard Carrying a Weapon Off-Duty in New Jersey?
Unless you have a valid permit to carry a handgun issued by the State of New Jersey, you cannot carry a firearm or any other weapon within the jurisdiction of this state. Even if you have a valid permit to purchase a gun, the use of that gun is restricted under the same laws that average citizens are subject to. This also applies if you are off-duty security personnel who is visiting New Jersey from another state with a gun that you have a permit for from your state of origin. In other words, if you work security in Pennsylvania and you come to New Jersey with a weapon that you legally have the right to carry in Pennsylvania, you can be charged with unlawful possession of weapon for that very firearm. A second degree illegal gun possession charge exposes you to up to 10 years in state prison, believe it or not, regardless of where the gun came from.
Security Officer Registration Act (SORA)
On January 19, 2016, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into legislation a change to the Security Officer Registration Act (SORA). The law requires that any security officer that was previously licensed to carry a gun must become licensed through SORA if they wish to work for a private security firm or as an in-house security officer. Under SORA, a security officer is defined as a person employed for a specific function. SORA defines a security person as one who is employed for: 1) the purpose of protection of person or property from harm, 2) deterrence, prevention of theft, 3) deterrence of burglary, criminal mischief, or trespass, arson or vandalism.
Under SORA, any person intending to become a security guard must take a 24-hour training course within thirty days of employment. The training course is designed to include many topics that help ensure the safety of the public. At least two hours of training must be given on the following topics:
- Theft prevention
- Limits on the use of force
- First aid/CPR
- Detention of suspects
- Homeland security; and
- Communications and emergency response.
In addition to taking the course, a security officer is required to have a badge that is identifiable but not so similar to local or federal law enforcement badges that someone would be confused as to the identity of the company. The officer must be in uniform and acting in the performance of his or her duties in order to be exempted from liability. A security officer has the authority to detain individuals under state law.
Can a Security Guard Detain a Person in New Jersey?
Under New Jersey Statute 2C:20-11, a security guard can detain a person if he or she has probable cause to believe that an offense of shoplifting or concealment was committed. Anyone detained under this section shall have no civil cause of action against a security officer unless it can be proven that there was no reasonable basis to detain a person. If the officer establishes that he had probable cause to believe that a person has willfully concealed merchandise belonging to the store, he will be exempt from liability. The officer cannot be subjected to civil or criminal responsibility if he is acting in conformance with his duties and in accordance with the statute. Note however, that a security guard cannot use deadly force in securing the presence of a theft suspect.
Excessive force upon a member of the public cannot be used under any circumstance. It makes no difference if the security guard committing an act of excessive force is retired or off-duty law enforcement or a civilian employed as a security guard. For example, if a person shoplifts televisions from a major retailer, the security guard cannot walk up and shoot the person. The security guard has the right to detain the person but he does not have the right to detain him or her at all costs. The force used by the security guard must be reasonable in response to the particular situation and facts.
Get Help with Security Guard Weapons Charges in NJ
If you are facing charges for a weapon or unlawful use of force as a security guard in New Jersey, contact our firm today at (201) 614-2474 to discuss how we can help. We defend clients in Bergen County, Passaic County, Hudson County, Monmouth County, Essex County, Morris County, and Superior Courts throughout New Jersey. If you are facing weapons charges, including those for unlawful firearms against security personnel, please feel free to reach out for answers regarding your specific case.