Domestic Violence d/p Conviction bars firearms possession – N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(b)(2)

On Wednesday January 14, 2004 the Legislature passed and the governor signed into law a series of bills related to the possession of firearms by persons who have been convicted of acts of domestic violence. One of the changes to the law is set forth under N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(b)(2). It is now a crime of the third degree for a person who has been convicted of a disorderly persons offense in a domestic violence context to purchase, own or possess a firearm. Note that this statute was enacted into law on the same day the Appellate Division published State v. Wahl. (See muni-mail of 1/14/04)

A conviction for a disorderly persons offense in muncipal court that is related to an act of domestic violence now carries with it another signicant collateral consequence, the loss of the ability to own, possess, purchase or use firearms. Defendants should be informed of this by their defense attorneys prior to the entry of a guilty plea.

The text of the new addition to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7 follows, along with the official statement that accompanied the bill in the Assembly.

N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7(b)(2) – A person having been convicted in this State or elsewhere of a disorderly persons offense involving domestic violence ,whether or not armed with or having in his possession a weapon enumerated in subsection r. of N.J.S.2C:39-1, who purchases, owns, possesses or controls a firearm is guilty of a crime of the third degree.

ASSEMBLY LAW AND PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE STATEMENT TO ASSEMBLY, No. 276 with committee amendments STATE OF NEW JERSEY DATED: DECEMBER 11, 2003 The Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee reports favorably and with committee amendments Assembly Bill No. 276. Assembly Bill No. 276 prohibits firearm possession by persons convicted of a domestic violence crime or a domestic violence disorderly persons offense, stalking or subject to a domestic violence restraining order. Under the provisions of N.J.S.2C:39-7, persons convicted of certain serious crimes are barred from purchasing or owning a firearm. A violation of this statute constitutes a crime of the second degree. This bill provides that persons convicted of stalking and persons convicted of crimes involving domestic violence would also be barred from purchasing or owning a firearm under that statute. Under the provisions of N.J.S.A.2C:25-21, a law enforcement officer at the scene of an alleged act of domestic violence who has probable cause to believe that an act of domestic violence has been committed may seize any weapons on the premises he believes to pose a threat to the victim. Section 1 of the bill provides that in this situation the law enforcement officer must seize such weapons and any firearms purchaser identification card or permit to purchase a handgun belonging to the person accused of the act of domestic violence. Section 2 of the bill amends N.J.S.A.2C:25-29 to require that any permanent domestic violence restraining order issued by the family court must include a provision barring the defendant from purchasing, owning, possessing or controlling a firearm and from receiving a firearms purchaser identification card or permit to purchase a handgun. The ban would last for the length of time the restraining order is in effect or for two years, whichever is greater. As amended by this committee, this provision of section 2 of the bill would not apply to a law enforcement officer while on duty or to a member of the United States Armed Forces or the National Guard while on duty or traveling to or from a place of duty. Section 3 of the bill, as originally introduced, had provided that a person whose weapon was seized by a law enforcement officer pursuant to the domestic violence act or who was barred from purchasing a firearm pursuant to a court order under the domestic violence act would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if he purchased, owned, possessed or controlled a firearm. The committee amended this section of the bill to make it a crime of the third degree to purchase, own, possess or control a firearm under these circumstances. The amendments also clarify the language of this provision, so that it now refers to a person whose firearm is seized pursuant to the domestic violence act and whose firearm has not been returned, and to a person who is subject to a court order prohibiting the possession of firearms issued pursuant to the domestic violence act. The committee also made several stylistic and language changes to the bill so that it conforms to its Senate counterpart S483. In addition, the committee made technical amendments to the bill to conform it with recent legislative enactments. COMMITTEE AMENDMENTS The committee amended the bill to: (1) provide an exemption to the prohibition on gun possession for a law enforcement officer while on duty or to a member of the United States Armed Forces or the National Guard while on duty or traveling to or from a place of duty. (2) make it a crime of the third degree to purchase, own, possess or control a firearm if it has been prohibited by the provisions of this bill. (3) make the bill identical to the Senate version. (4) make technical corrections.

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