Unlawful Possession of Other Weapons – N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d) – What are the penalties for Unlawful Possession of Other Weapons in NJ
“Unlawful Possession of ‘Other Weapons’ in New Jersey falls under the penalties assigned by a very harsh legal statute. Those convicted of these charges are facing significant jail time and a felony record.”
If you’ve been arrested for a weapons charge in New Jersey, you are unfortunately facing some of the most serious weapons laws in the country. The charge of unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d, is a fourth degree crime when the weapon meets the criteria and is not referenced in one of the above subsections of the statute. You may be charged with this crime when you possess any item that can be used for producing lethal or physically harmful results. To be found guilty of this offense, the state must only prove that you possessed a weapon for purposes that are not lawful.
The statute pertaining to what is unlawful is broad and can be applied under many circumstances in which no harm was ever intended. This charge often comes into play in domestic disputes, confrontations between friends or loved ones, theft crimes, and during gatherings where alcohol-surged tempers flare. The distinction as to what is “manifestly appropriate” when it comes to weapons can be tricky. Sometimes, even attorneys that don’t regularly handle guns and weapons charges can be confused by this law and what it means. Fortunately, through experience, our defense team at The Tormey Law Firm understand this nuanced area of the law and regularly defend cases involving firearms and weapons offenses. We would be happy to talk to you about your case free of charge and get started on your defense if you enlist our help. Please feel free to contact us by sending a message or calling (201)-556-1570 to learn more about your charge and what you are facing. We can also explain various methods and defenses that may be employed in best resolving your case.
What does Unlawful Possession of “Other Weapons” Mean?
Unlawful Possession of Other Weapons – N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d) states that: Any person who knowingly has in his possession any other weapon under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful uses as it may have is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.
New Jersey takes weapons cases very seriously. As such, the legislature criminalizes many behaviors or acts in which an alleged “weapon” is said to be present. The hope of courts and prosecutors is that stiff penalties will deter individuals from using weapons in any situation in which they should not be used. It doesn’t matter what weapon you have, if your intention was to use it for inappropriate reasons under the law, you could be convicted of a fourth degree crime. To make the determination as to whether a weapon was used appropriately, the courts look at the circumstances surrounding the unlawful possession.
Specifically, juries are forced to consider whether you possessed a weapon “under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful uses as it may have.” The term weapon is not limited to guns or firearms. Instead, it is all encompassing and refers to such items as knives, stun guns, black jacks, billies, stilettos, brass knuckles, and anything capable of producing injurious or fatal results. If the jury finds that you possessed a weapon and used it in a manner inconsistent with a lawful use, you can be found guilty of violating N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d.
Manifestly appropriate for lawful use in a weapons possession case
Essentially, you can possess any object, such as a beer bottle, a bat, or a knife and be using it in a manner that is appropriate and consistent with its original design. That does not mean that the objects cannot ever be possessed unlawfully. Sometimes, objects transcend from lawful objects to unlawful weapons by virtue of the way in which they are used.
In other words, did you use the object as it was intended or did you transform it into a weapon by the way in which it was used? This is better understood by way of example. In State v. Colon, the defendant was charged with murder for allegedly fatally stabbing his friend while peeling and preparing potatoes. Defense argued that the client possessed the knife because he was peeling potatoes and that he possessed it lawfully. The jury found the man guilty of unlawful possession and the defense appealed. The Appellate Division affirmed the conviction and held that the issue is not whether the object could be used lawfully or that it was originally possessed lawfully, but rather, whether the circumstances of possession were appropriate for such use.
Common Objects for 2C:39-5(d) Charges
Consider the objects of a beer bottle, baseball bat, paper weight or a kitchen knife. Drinking a beer, playing baseball, or cutting your steak are all lawful acts using everyday items. But when you take these items and use them in an unlawful manner, you will be charged with a crime. The court has held that it is not the prior lawful possession that matters, but rather the manner in which the object was used.
For instance, slicing a fellow bar patron with the broken beer bottle arguably turns it into a weapon. Similarly, being a sore loser and striking your teammate in the head with a bat is also just as impermissible as stabbing your wife with the kitchen knife during a hostile dinner. There is no doubt that you did possess these items lawfully at some point prior to the commission of the crime. What you did with the object when supposedly committing the offense matters. And in some situations, you may never lawfully possess the weapon and so there is no lawful use under New Jersey law. This applies to weapons like switchblade knives and brass knuckles.
4th Degree Unlawful Possession of a Weapon Penalties
Whatever weapon you had at the time of your arrest is being charged under the NJ unlawful possession of weapons statute, so 2C:39-5(d) determines the penalties and punishments that you’re facing. Fourth degree crimes are not the most serious felony offenses in the New Jersey criminal system. Nonetheless, you can go to prison for as much as a year and a half, or 18 months. You may also be fined $10,000 and be placed on probation for up to 5 years. Additionally, if the offense involves domestic violence, there are ancillary penalties such as more fines, restrictions on your contact with the alleged victim, and forfeiting your right to own a firearm.
Charged with Unlawful Possession of Other Weapons for Domestic Violence
This criminal charge often arises in situations involving domestic violence. Fighting couples may scream, curse, and become volatile. When the argument escalates, things that would not ordinarily be considered a weapon can be used against the other person. Have you ever thrown something during an argument and injured the other person? If so, you could be charged with a crime. Common objects thrown during arguments are utensils, ashtrays, glassware, and just about any item that is not nailed down and thus, available for tossing.
If you are charged with fourth degree weapons possession in conjunction with domestic violence, your case can be referred to Family Court for a restraining order and the Criminal Division of the Superior Court for the crime. When this happens, the accused should take all proper precautions in defending the restraining order, as anything you say in that court can be used against you in the criminal matter.
There are, of course, other situations in which an object is used as a weapon when its original use was not intended for harm. Drinking at a bar and picking up a bar stool and hitting someone with it can be said to be a weapon. Likewise, if you demand money from someone while holding a bat, it may be considered a weapon as well.
Defending 2C:39-5(d) Charges for Illegal Weapons Possession
Luckily, possession of “other weapons” cases can be fought in a court of law, and often with great success. The distinction between lawful and unlawful use can readily turn on the alleged victim’s credibility. After all, the victim may testify about what they believed or perceived to have happened. It is our job to chip away at the veracity of the witness’s statement and demonstrate to the court and jury that you possessed the item lawfully and you had no intention to use it unlawfully against the other person. Beyond that, as we have done in other cases, we may file an application for Pre-trial Intervention (PTI) to have the charges dismissed. Similarly, motions to suppress any statement or admission you may have given to the police may be filed if applicable.
The Tormey Law firm has a series of advanced defense strategies for guns and weapons charges and we have implemented these defenses with extensive success in courts throughout New Jersey. Please watch our video series on “How to Beat Gun Charges” and feel free call us to discuss the specific details of your case: (201) 556-1570.
Call The Tormey Law Firm for a free consultation with experienced weapons charge attorneys
Our firm is absolutely dedicated to providing the best criminal defense for your legal issues, and we are available for free consultations regarding your weapons related matter. We are happy to talk to you about the methods that we will use to fight your case, and give you all of the information that you might need. We have successfully litigated weapons possession cases involving N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d) offenses resulting in dismissals, downgrading of the charges, and minimized or avoided jail time. If you have been accused of an illegal weapons offense of any kind, contact us now to find out how we can help you with your charges.