Truckers often get Arrested for Having Guns in Trucks & Commercial Vehicles in NJ
Improperly transporting firearms has become a prevalent issue for truckers hauling goods from one state to another. Depending on how your firearm is brought into the state and where it is stored in your truck or commercial vehicle, this can open the door to criminal charges. Luckily, The Tormey Law Firm has handled numerous gun cases involving this same issue. As you may know, the State of New Jersey has some of the harshest gun laws in the country. That is why you need highly experienced and well-versed legal counsel to help you. If you have been arrested for a gun in your truck or other commercial vehicle anywhere in the state of New Jersey, contact The Tormey Law Firm today for a free consultation so that we can discuss the facts and merits of your case. With an effective defense, your life doesn’t need to be derailed by an arrest for a handgun, rifle, shotgun, ammunition, or other firearm found in the truck you were driving through New Jersey.
Facing Charges for a Firearm in my Truck in New Jersey
If you drive a truck as part of your employment, there is nothing in the New Jersey statutes that specifically authorizes you to travel through the state with a gun. That means out of state truck drivers and/or residents are not given a green light to just bring their firearms into New Jersey or travel through New Jersey with them in tow. Nonetheless, there are exceptions that allow for citizens to travel with a firearm, especially when driving to or leaving a gun range, for law enforcement, military personnel, certain employment purposes, transit police within the course of their duties, and more. Under a plain reading of the statute, unless you fall within specific categories, then you may be prosecuted for simply transporting your firearm through the state without having a permit in New Jersey. Therefore, if you can avoid bringing your firearm with you, then you should do so. If you choose to take your firearm with you, then you should try to conform closely with the statute so that (if needed) you will be able to show a Judge and/or Prosecutor that your conduct was within the spirit of the law.
To begin, the first consideration is how to legally transport a firearm through the State of New Jersey. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C: 39-6, our state laws provide that a firearm must be unloaded and separated from ammunition. In other words, this means that a firearm shall be carried and contained in a closed and fastened case AND that the firearm be separated from the ammunition. Separated implies that it is completely away from the firearm., i.e. not in the same case as the firearm, etc. Further, the gun should also be locked in the trunk of the automobile that it is being transported in since this is the furthest place from a driver while operating a motor vehicle.
What is a transportation issue when a truck contains a gun in NJ?
Here, you may be found culpable if you improperly store your firearm or ammunition when traveling. For example, if you place your unloaded firearm in a case in the glovebox of the vehicle, you will likely be charged. Similarly, if you place your ammunition in the glovebox and the firearm under your seat, you will also be charged with a gun offense. That also means truckers storing a firearm in the cabin of the vehicle may also incur charges. Transportation problems arise despite whether your travels would have been classified legal in your home state. However, as we will discuss later, the laws of your home state may be able to assist in overcoming a conviction for the charges that you may be facing. Mainly with transport issues, the question of where and how your firearm was stored will be a crucial factor in determining the charges you may receive.
What happens if your truck does not have a trunk when driving through NJ?
This is a problem that numerous truckers on cross-country road trips face when traveling through the state. Many times, the truck that the individual is transporting goods in does not have a trunk. Thus, just as previously explained, when traveling with a firearm without a trunk, the individual should transport his or her firearm to align with the laws and the intent of the legislature as closely as possible. The purpose of these laws is to keep the public and law enforcement safe. Accordingly, if you must travel with a firearm in your truck, it is imperative that it is as far away from one’s reach as possible. Hence, if someone is pulled over or stopped by law enforcement, everyone is kept as safe as possible.
Improper transport of legally owned firearms is precisely addressed by the Attorney General’s 2014 Directive in clarifying the Graves Act. The Graves Act imposes harsh mandatory sentences for gun charges. As such, the 2014 Directive offers guidance to prosecutors regarding out of state residents coming into New Jersey with a legally owned firearm. In that similar vein, it allows for prosecutors to use discretion to consent to defendant’s entry into PTI if there is a showing that he or she acted in accordance with the laws of his or her home state, possession would have been lawful in that state and defendant misinterpreted New Jersey’s laws. In fact, the memorandum lists three specific circumstances that clarify a defendant’s possession of a firearm in New Jersey as an out-of-state resident and ultimately favors PTI admission.
Charged with a handgun in a commercial vehicle, Can I avoid jail?
An extremely relevant factor to out-of-state truck drivers is the “Minimal Exposure of the Firearm to Persons” in New Jersey. It contemplates whether the firearm was kept in the vehicle at all times during its unlawful possession in New Jersey. The Directive specifically states: “For example, traveling through New Jersey on an interstate highway with few if any stops presents less danger than a more protracted visit, or multiple visits, where it is likely that the defendant will be interacting with non-motorists in this State.” In essence, this example suggests that because the defendant did not place residents at risk (because he or she simply traveled through State), it is a favorable consideration toward PTI. If we examine this factor, its purpose is to show the defendant lacked intent to be here or unlawfully carry the firearm here through his or her minimal contact with the state.
Although this is very helpful when arguing for PTI, there are other factors that need to be discussed as well and, overall, does not insulate a defendant from being subjected to and convicted of a gun offense.
The other factors should also be addressed to overcome the presumption of imprisonment the defendant is facing with a gun charge because they each mitigate defendant’s culpability. Moreover, the context of the facts of your case are coupled with the factors outlined in the directive to determine eligibility for PTI admission. It is important to note, a Prosecutor will not just offer you PTI because you think your case aligns with the intent of the directive. As such, it must be presented to the Prosecutor by showing how the circumstances of your case aligns with the intent of the directive. How can that be done? A skilled attorney will offer a mitigating package to the Prosecutor to show that it would be in the interests of justice to bypass the mandates of the Graves Act and offer you PTI.
If you retain our firm to help you, and of course depending on the charges you are actually facing, we will submit the gun permit from your home state, receipt for the firearm, the purpose of your trip, available itinerary that led you through the state, purchase orders (if available) and much more. Consequently, it is important to provide clear and convincing proof to the Prosecutor with as much evidence as possible. Below, is a recent example where a driver came into the State and was offered PTI through our persuasive argument showing the Prosecutor that he was a good candidate based on his lack of prior criminal history and favorable evidence documenting his purpose for being here.
How to Handle being Arrested for a Rifle, Shotgun, Ammunition or other Firearm while Driving a Truck in NJ
Here is an example of a case that our firm recently handled. D1 and D2 were traveling through New Jersey for a work trip when they were stopped for an alleged traffic violation as they approached the George Washington Bridge. These two business partners own and operate a shipping service where they pack, load and unload items for clients and deliver them to destinations within the lower 48 states. A client delivery brought the pair into the northeast and their GPS navigation system routed them through New Jersey. The business partners did not plan or intend to stop in New Jersey, instead their business brought them to merely travel through the State where they were stopped for an alleged traffic violation. During the traffic stop, their truck was subsequently searched, and two firearms were uncovered. One was stored in the center console of the truck with a loaded magazine/one bullet in the chamber, while the other was unloaded and found in a duffle bag. D1, a Minnesota resident, has a permit to carry and is the legal owner of the firearms subject to this matter. However, because D1 did not come to the state with, or obtain, a New Jersey firearm permit, he was charged with two counts of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, a serious degree felony that violates N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5B(1). This case simply involved the improper transport of D1’s legally owned firearms as defendants did not plan on stopping in New Jersey.
Our firm was able to resolve this case by our client’s entry into Pretrial Intervention (PTI) and allowing him to avoid the mandates of a prison term associated with a conviction on a gun charge. Originally, the State was stuck on imposing incarceration upon both the Plaintiff and the co-defendant. However, our office was able to negotiate a PTI disposition by highlighting specific elements of the case that showed his lack of intent to be in NJ, that he was here for employment purposes only, etc. Accordingly, we submitted an extensive package to the Prosecutor’s Office with substantial evidentiary support. Particularly, we highlighted pertinent factors in line with the directive and relevant facts of the case.
Here, D1 was not the subject of any restraining orders and had no affiliations with any gangs or organized crime groups. Second, the seized firearms were lawfully purchased in Minnesota. Third, D1 was a law-abiding citizen that had strong community ties back home in Minnesota and was devoted to volunteering and helping those around him. Next, he was a resident of Minnesota who drove through New Jersey solely for employment purposes. He and the co-defendant own and operate a shipping business. As part of their business, the two partake in interstate travel to deliver/move goods. Thus, they simply ended up in New Jersey through the course of their travels. Lastly, D1 had a firearm permit in his home-state of Minnesota. Notably, Minnesota is an open-carry State. Thus, under information and belief, D1 thought his travels with his firearm were legal. As such, we contended that subjecting him to incarceration for not properly transporting his firearm would be an injustice given the type of person he is and the life he has led up until this point. Ultimately, the Prosecutor agreed after back and forth negotiations and consented to his entry into PTI.
Truck Driver Charged with a Weapons Offense in NJ? Contact Us
As you can see, even if you have a supportive argument, there still may be push back from the State. Our attorneys are here to help you with your best defense if you have been arrested for a firearm that police discovered in your truck or other commercial vehicle in NJ. Many times, even lawful firearms owners in New Jersey also can be charged with a firearm offense if the individual does not fall under a transportation exception. No matter what the case may be, as a trucker facing gun charges, it is important to discuss your case with an attorney to consider your chances of PTI entry, what led to your charges and what recourse you may have available. The defense team at The Tormey Law Firm has the knowledge and experience to handle your case. Contact us at (201) 614-2474 if you are in need of a free consultation.