I have a domestic violence charge (but no conviction) on my criminal history report. How does this affect my right to own firearms?
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bestows upon us all the right to keep and bear arms. Keep in mind, however, this right is subject to a laundry list of exceptions – some of which are considerably more restrictive and archaic than others.
One of the most common hindrances to firearm ownership – in New Jersey and elsewhere – is the existence of a criminal background, especially if the offense involved violence or misuse of a weapon. However, New Jersey courts are apparently working to eliminate any distinction between an actual conviction and a mere criminal charge. As you well know, being charged with a crime requires nothing more than probable cause, whereas a conviction is only possible if a judge and jury conclude, as a matter of fact and law, the defendant did commit the underlying offenses.
Nonetheless, an appellate court upheld the denial of an application to purchase a firearm, citing a domestic violence charge of which the applicant was acquitted in 1998. Without much explanation, the denial cited a “public safety concern,” and the applicant quickly appealed the decision.
Gun rights in New Jersey
Firearm ownership laws in Burlington County and throughout the state have always been somewhat of a quagmire, as any criminal law attorney will undoubtedly attest. Interestingly, the Garden State is one of just six U.S. states without a state constitutional right to bear arms, and authorities have seemingly worked tirelessly to place unrelenting restrictions on the average citizen seeking to exercise those rights afforded at the federal level.
With regard to criminal histories, the New Jersey statutes make clear that the existence of an assaultive criminal conviction on one’s record will operate as a prohibition to purchasing and possessing a firearm. Moreover, N.J.S.A. 13:54-1.5 states that the conviction of any crime, or a disorderly persons offense involving an act of domestic violence shall be a hindrance to lawful gun ownership – regardless of whether the perpetrator was armed at the time of the offense.
If you are facing difficulty with regard to a firearm, criminal background, or other criminal law issue, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler today by calling (609)267-1101.