What is a “Graves act” offense”?

Is there a difference between the legal requirement for “a permit to carry a weapon” in New Jersey and the legal requirements needed for first obtaining ‘a firearms purchasing ID card’ before possessing a weapon under the criminal code for convection?

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In this case the defendant was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon under New Jersey criminal code NJSA 2C:39–5 B. This is the standard New Jersey Graves act statute used to charge all persons who unlawfully possess a weapon without first having obtained a permit to purchase same. The Graves Act is that section of the criminal code that defines the legal requirements needed to purchase and possess and carry a firearm in the state of New Jersey. The first step requires obtaining a firearms purchasing ID card by your local police department. Once you are issued the firearms purchasing ID card,  you are able to present it to a firearms sales person. This enables the gun ownership to be transferred from the salesman to the buyer. The next section of the statute deals with a permit to carry and then a permit to carry a concealed weapon.  If you do not have a permit to carry a weapon outside of your home it must be stored in the trunk in a lawful sealed transport container with ammunition separate from the weapon. You were not allowed to carry a concealed weapon on your person unless you have a separate permit to carry that concealed weapon.

The facts of this case are straight forward. The police came to the defendant’s apartment during an investigation. The police found a weapon during a search and the defendant admitted ownership of the weapon.  New Jersey you are allowed to possess a weapon in your home without a permit to carry however, you must first possess the Firearms purchasing ID card in order to purchase same. The sole issue in this case boiled down to the jury instruction regarding the unlawful possession of a hand gun charge for the use of the unlawful possession of a handgun being carried without a permit.

The defendant on appeal raised an objection to the jury charge used at the time of trial.

Although the defendant objected, the court addressed the third element of the jury charge, the permit to carry as well as the permit to purchase. This Appellate Division summarily dismissed the defendant’s argument in this case because the defense attorney did not object to the proposed jury charge. It ruled: “A claim of the wording of the jury charge to which the defendant did not object in and will not be considered unless the claim can rise to the level of pain error. The defendant who does not object to a jury charge at trial bears a considerable burden to establish the legal impropriety of the charge and it’s prejudicial affect on the substantive rights of the defendant at his case by clear and convincing evidence.”

The court goes on to say that it did not read the jury charge word by word, rather it reads the entire charge in full, in toto. I did not find the trial judge’s use of the word “permit to possess “as opposed to “permit to carry“ misleading.  The court went on to conclude the jury could come to the conclusion that the defendant did not have the permit to carry because he to did not have the permit to purchase either. The jury could draw the inference that there was a lack of permit based on the evidence. Thus the jury instruction viewed in its entire handedly used the terms “possess” and “carry” interchangeably together with the state’s burden to prove the other elements of this offense.

Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

Leave a Comment