The man who owns Nugent’s Tavern, a historical bar in Elizabeth, New Jersey, was arrested after law enforcement responded to a call about possible domestic violence. Additionally, police reportedly seized dozens of guns, including an assault weapon that has been banned in NJ. According to officials, the owner of the bar, Mr. Santos, got into a verbal altercation with a woman. The two argued because the woman had a broken foot and asked Santos to drive her to the hospital. When Santos reportedly refused, the verbal altercation escalated and got physical. The woman allegedly threw glasses at Santos; he reportedly responded by grabbing the woman and then biting her on the neck. A neighbor heard the commotion tried to enter the residence to intervene. Santos allegedly cocked a firearm and threatened to shoot the neighbor. The neighbor dialed 911 to alert the Elizabeth Police Department, which dispatched cops to the scene. Santos was subsequently arrested and charged with multiple crimes: simple assault, terroristic threats, resisting arrest, and unlawful possession of a weapon.
Elizabeth police also seized numerous firearms, which is common when NJ police respond to a complaint about domestic violence. The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act calls for responding officers to arrest an alleged perpetrator of domestic violence so long as there is probable cause to believe that domestic violence has occurred. The police will typically examine the alleged victim for signs of injury, find out whether a warrant exists, determined whether the victim has a restraining order against the suspect, and look for weapons at the site of the alleged domestic violence incident.
Police can also seize guns and other weapons from the domestic violence suspect. If weapons are seized, they will have to be returned to the suspect – unless the prosecutor’s office files a motion with the Family Court. Permanent seizure of the firearms, as well as gun permits and licenses, will require the prosecutor’s office to demonstrate that the owner is unfit to legally possess a weapon.
The Family Court will ultimately return seized weapons if the owner is not disqualified from legally owning a weapon. The Family Judge will consider several factors:
- Whether the owner has a criminal record.
- The owner’s mental and physical health.
- Whether the suspect is a habitual drinker or suffers from substance abuse issues.
- Whether the suspect is the subject of a restraining order.
- Whether the suspect presents a risk to the public.
Union County Aggravated Assault Charges
If the Court rules against the domestic violence suspect, the firearms will not be returned. Instead, they can be sold or potentially transferred from the suspect to someone who is permitted to own the weapons.