New Jersey Mental Health Records Checks for Firearm Permits
Attorneys for Clients Seeking Gun Ownership with Medical Issues in NJ
In order to legally purchase a firearm in the Garden State, a person must first obtain the proper permit. Unfortunately, you cannot use another State’s permits or licenses without risk of being charged with a crime for unlawful possession of a weapon. To obtain a New Jersey permit, one must submit an application with your local police department and follow the rules pertaining to gun permits. On the application, you will be asked several questions about your medical history. Specifically, you will be asked if you suffer from any physical defects or diseases, are an alcoholic, or if you are dependent upon the use of any narcotics or other controlled dangerous substances. In addition, you will be asked if you have ever been confined or committed to a mental institution or hospital, and have you ever attended, been treated, or observed by any doctor, psychiatrist or at any hospital or mental institution.
If the applicant does answer “yes” to any of the aforementioned questions or is suffering from any physical or mental health issues, the application will be denied. The permit statute does not define what a physical or mental health issue is and moreover, it does not list any types of diagnoses, conditions, handicaps or illnesses that would bar an applicant. The only guiding language in the law is “any physical defect or disease which would make it unsafe for him [or her] to handle a firearm.” Thus, it appears that as long as the condition does not present a safety risk, the person would not be disqualified. Additionally, the statute goes on to read that even if a person is suffering from a condition, the applicant can submit a certificate from a medical doctor or psychiatrist licensed in New Jersey, or other similar proof, to demonstrate that he or she does not pose a danger to the community. Therefore, from the language of the statute, it appears that our lawmakers are not trying to prohibit ill or handicapped people from possessing a gun but rather, are trying to ensure that safe individuals control firearms.
Mental Health Background Checks for Firearm Ownership in New Jersey
At the conclusion of the application, the person seeking a firearm permit will be asked to execute a medical waiver so the police can examine the applicant’s health records. Additionally, the person will also be required to submit their fingerprints. Utilizing the fingerprints and mental health records waiver, the police will review the applicant’s background through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The system is serviced and maintained by the FBI and consists of three databases: (1) the National Crime Information Center, (2) the Interstate Identification Index, and (3) the National Instant Criminal Background Check System Index. Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement records are also researched during a firearms background check.
Each database stores different information, which is why all three are reviewed by the local police. The Crime Information Center holds records related to restraining orders, protective orders, missing person reports, warrants, and fugitive records. The Interstate Identification Index contains arrest reports and criminal records. The Criminal Check Index also provides information related to arrests, restraining orders, and criminal convictions. It also supplies material concerning civil commitments and any other important medical information that may help the police determine whether a person is mentally or physical fit to handle a firearm.
Mental Health Expungements for Guns in NJ
A person can expunge both criminal and civil commitment records. If a person seals their criminal past, the police cannot utilize their past convictions against them. Moreover, when asked whether they have ever been convicted of a crime or offense, they can legally answer in the negative. However, the same cannot be said for a person’s medical history. It is possible to seal your health records by filing a petition with the court and if the Judge grants the application, the material is sealed from the public. Thus, like a criminal expungement, the public cannot see the records. However, with respect to firearms permits, the police can still examine the expunged information.
In a case titled In the Matter of J.D., an individual submitted an application for a firearms permit and when asked whether he has ever been civilly committed, he answered “no.” During the course of the police’s investigation, they uncovered that he was involuntarily committed. When questioned why he indicated otherwise, he claimed that his commitment was expunged. Nevertheless, because of the applicant’s previous mental health history, the police denied his application. In turn, he appealed and argued that his expunged commitment should not be held against him. The Court disagreed. The Court reasoned that an expungement is a privilege, not an absolute right, and as a result, privileges may be waived. Thus, if the person wishes to apply for a firearms permit, he must waive his privilege against any person or entity viewing his medical history. Therefore, in accordance with the JD ruling, even if a person seals his medical background, the police are still authorized to review it and use it against the applicant.
Appealing a Denial based on Medical Records
Nevertheless, if a person’s application is denied by the police, they have the right to appeal the gun permit decision. Within 30 days, the individual must file an appeal with the New Jersey Superior Court alongside a $50.00 filing fee. Upon receipt of the appeal, the Court will schedule a hearing date. Generally, the first appearance is a status conference to inform the Judge if each party is ready to proceed or if additional time is needed. From there, the Court will set a trial date. If a person is denied a permit because of a physical or mental concern, an appeal is their best option to obtain the permit. Furthermore, at the trial, the applicant, depending on their condition, should call an appropriate doctor, psychiatrist, or some type of expert as a witness in order to explain to the Judge that he or she is capable of safely handling a firearm. Due to the complexity of these issues, it is important to seek help from an experienced NJ firearms attorney.
Help Getting Medical Clearance to Obtain a Gun in New Jersey
If you or someone you know needs assistance with mental health related concerns for a firearms application or your application has been denied, please call (201) 614-2474 for legal help today. Our gun lawyers are highly knowledgeable and skilled with handling these cases and we can provide you with a free consultation anytime.