Our criminal defense lawyers strive to provide you with the most up to date information about changes to the laws in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We firmly believe that an educated client is in the best position to achieve a good result in a criminal case. While it our hope you and your family won’t need our services, we are ready to stand with you!
New Jersey Governor Murphy recently signed changes to State’s already tough gun control laws. These changes focus mainly on gun safety reforms to continue the fight against gun violence in New Jersey. The Governor signed seven (7) comprehensive gun safety bills, six (6) of which were part of his original gun safety 3.0 package. As stated in previous articles, there have been over 239 mass shootings in 2022 alone and there is no doubt that New Jersey’s move towards further gun control laws is a direct result of these mass shootings, especially the ones that occurred in Hyland Park, IL, Uvalde, TX and, Buffalo, NY. While these new measures don’t make any adjustments to State’s mandatory minimum sentences (Graves Act,) they do make it more difficult for a person to purchase a weapon in New Jersey than in state such as Pennsylvania.
The gun safety laws included the following:
- Allows the Attorney General to bring a cause of action for certain public nuisance violations arising from the sale or marketing of firearms.
- Requires firearm owners who become New Jersey residents to obtain firearm purchaser identification cards and register handgun acquired out of state.
- Upgrade certain crimes related to manufacturing firearms from third degree to second degree (presumption of non-incarceration to presumption of incarceration).
- Revises the definition of destructive device to include certain 50 caliber rifles.
- Regulates the sale of handgun ammunition and develops a system of electronic reporting of handgun ammunition sales.
- Requires training for the issuance of firearm purchaser identification cards and the permit to purchase handguns under certain circumstances; provides that firearm purchaser identification cards, including photograph and thumb print and remain valid for only ten (10) years; and
- Requires firearm retailers to sell microstamping enabled forearms upon determination of availability by the Attorney General’s office.
The goal of these laws is to combat gun violence and hold accountable irresponsible gun dealers and manufacturers who profit from gun violence.
State Gun Law vs. Federal Gun Law
These changes to New Jersey’s gun laws included legislation that attempted to fill in the gaps which are not covered under federal law. It is important to understand that State law can never conflict with federal law, but there is no prohibition with the State providing further protection regarding its citizen’s health, safety, and welfare.
Finally and again, keep in mind that these changes to New Jersey’s gun law do not affect the current mandatory minimum sentencing under New Jersey’s Graves Act. There is a strong possibility, however, that given the movement toward combatting gun violence, the State will attempt to increase mandatory minimum sentencing and also eliminate loopholes in the law which allow for Graves Act waiver these sentences.
Pennsylvania, unlike New Jersey, does not maintain mandatory minimum sentencing for most gun laws, but again this may change given the recent wave of violence throughout the United States.
What is a Graves Act Waiver in New Jersey and what does a person need to show to receive waiver consideration?
Under NJSA 2C:43-6.2, an individual charged under the Act is eligible for full waiver to a probationary term rather than a custodial sentence where the mitigating factors, as defined by NJSA 2C:44-1, substantially outweigh the aggravating factors. Even if a person isn’t eligible for a full waiver, he or she may be eligible for a partial waiver which would reduce mandatory 42 month prison sentence to a one year term. For a partial waiver, the prosecutor must only determine that the aggravating factors applicable to the offense and the offender himself do not outweigh the applicable mitigating circumstances.
The following are considered aggravating factors in New Jersey:
- The nature and circumstances of the offense
- The gravity and seriousness of the harm inflicted on the victim
- Risk that the defendant will commit another crime
- A lesser sentence will depreciate the seriousness of the defendant’s offense because it involved the breach of public trust
- The likelihood that the defendant is involved in organized crime
- The extent of the defendant’s prior criminal history
- The defendant committed the crime pursuant to some agreement for money or other incentive
- The defendant committed the crime against law enforcement
- The need to deter defendants’ and others from violating the law
- The crime involved fraud or deception
- The person committed the crime against a person who the defendant knew or should of known was over the age of 60
- The act involved domestic violence
The following are considered mitigating factors in New Jersey:
- The defendant did not cause or threaten serious harm
- The defendant did not contemplate that his conduct would cause or threaten serious harm
- The defendant acted under strong provocation
- There were substantial grounds to excuse or justify the defendant’s conduct, while failing to establish an actual legal defense
- The defendant has compensated or will compensate the victim or will participate in a program or community service
- The defendant has no prior criminal history
- The defendants’ conduct was the result of circumstances unlikely to reoccur
- The character and attitude of the defendant indicate that he is unlikely to commit another offense
- The defendant will respond well to probation
- Imprisonment of the defendant would entail an excessive hardship to himself or dependents
- The willingness of the defendant to cooperate with law enforcement or authorities
- The conduct of the youthful defendant was substantially influenced by a person more mature than the defendant
For more information on the Graves Act and New Jersey gun law, I encourage you to call our office and speak to me about your case.
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