NJ State Senator to Propose Reduction in Penalties for Unlawful Possession of a Handgun

New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), recently stated that he will introduce legislation to reduce the mandatory penalties for the unlawful possession of a handgun under the New Jersey Criminal Code.

Senator Lesniak’s position is that the current mandatory minimum sentencing provisions should be changed for situations of “pure unlawful possession” in which the handgun is unlawfully possessed but is not used to commit a crime. For example, if a person with a loaded handgun and a valid carry permit from another state is driving through New Jersey and is pulled over, that person could be charged with unlawfully possessing the handgun but would not face the same mandatory minimums as a person who unlawfully possesses a handgun and uses it to commit a crime.

Under the current handgun possession and transport laws in New Jersey, specifically N.J.S.A. 2C:39-6, a handgun “shall be carried unloaded and contained in a closed and fastened case, gun box, securely tied package, or locked in the trunk of the automobile in which it is being transported, and in the course of travel, shall include only such deviations as are reasonably necessary under the circumstances.” However, non-residents who pass through New Jersey are often arrested for having a loaded handgun in their car’s center console or glovebox – even when the gun is otherwise legal in their home state. That’s because it is unlawful to transport a loaded gun in a car in New Jersey – even if it is legal in the home state. Moreover, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Thus, under the current New Jersey Criminal Code, any person charged with the unlawful possession of a handgun, regardless of the circumstances, faces severe penalties that include 5-10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine.

Additionally, the Graves Act imposes a mandatory minimum three-year sentence for anyone who is found guilty of the unlawful possession of a firearm, regardless of whether the firearm was used in the commission of a crime. Beyond that, there is no parole eligibility, regardless of whether the defendant has a criminal history.

Senator Lesniak proposal to the NJ Legislature will reportedly seek to reduce the punishment for “pure unlawful possession” so that there is no mandatory minimum sentence. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see what becomes of this proposal.

Potential Reduction in Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Firearms Possession in NJ

If you have been charged with a firearms-related offense such as the unlawful possession of a handgun, contact the experienced weapons defense attorneys at the Tormey Law Firm to learn more about the unlawful possession of a weapon, handgun carry permits, the Graves Act, and how to fight a gun charge.