One would be shocked by the number of telephone calls I get every year from individuals arrested for illegal weapon possession at or on their way to a NJ casino. The scenarios go on and on. There is the guy who is charged when a pistol is discovered by police as a result of a domestic event with a wife, girlfriend, or boyfriend at a casino. We also find individuals running into trouble by virtue of partying in their room and the situation escalating to the point that the police are summoned. Another common scenario is the accused who leaves a weapon in his vehicle while or after valet parking, or in a bag at Atlantic City Airport.
The truth is that New Jersey takes unlicensed handguns very seriously and mandates imposition of a jail sentence in most cases. One would assume that this fact would prompt individuals to retain private counsel soon after arrest but the unfortunate reality is that the majority of the calls I receive involve out-of-state residents who take the charges lightly, opt for a public defender, and finally realize what they are up against when they are facing a plea cutoff. The plea cutoff typically requires that the defendant either accept a plea that involves 1 or 3 years of parole ineligibility, meaning that they must serve at least one year or three years of any sentence before they are even eligible for release from jail (e.g. 3 years with 1 year of parole ineligibility or 5 years with 3 years of parole ineligibility), or proceed to trial and face at least 5 years in jail if found guilty. Why do individuals repeatedly make this mistake — a lack of knowledge of the law and penalties for unlicensed handgun possession in NJ. Indeed, what may apply in terms of handgun possession in states like, for example, Florida, Virginia, Georgia, Pennsylvania, has no bearing in this state.
My hope is that through blog posts like this and other information on the internet, suspects charged with possessing an illegal gun will seek legal assistance early. Perhaps, this will translate into better outcomes for the long list of defendants who end up contacting us when it is too late to avoid a mandatory jail sentence and/or conviction. An even more optimist goal is to encourage individuals to leave their guns at home when they visit New Jersey as there really is no legally permissible use for them within the state absent a license.