On January 9, 2017, NJ Governor Chris Christie signed into law a bill that will limit gun access to individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses or subject to restraining orders and that will enhance sentencing guidelines for certain domestic violence offenses.
Prior to the passage of this bill, New Jersey’s domestic violence laws permitted authorities to seize weapons from an accused aggressor of domestic abuse based on probable cause to believe that an act of domestic violence was committed and that weapons exposed the victim to a risk of serious bodily injury. N.J.S.A. 2C:25-21(d)(1)(a) and (b). In fact, a New Jersey temporary restraining order not only protected the victim from the alleged aggressor, but also served as a warrant that permitted the authorities to search the defendant’s home and seize any firearms and the defendant’s firearms purchaser identification card. Moreover, even if for some reason law enforcement was not able to take immediate possession of the defendant’s firearms, Temporary Restraining Orders included a provision stating that “a failure to comply with the directive to surrender all weapons, firearms permits, applications or identification cards may constitute criminal contempt pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9(b).”
This new law adds an additional aspect to the protections offered by restraining orders by requiring a domestic violence defendant to also attest that they either do not possess firearms or have already surrendered all of their firearms to law enforcement.
Additionally, whenever a defendant is found guilty of a crime of domestic violence, the court shall order the defendant to arrange for the immediate surrender to a law enforcement officer of any firearm that has not already been seized or surrendered and any firearms purchaser identification card or permit to purchase a handgun possessed by the defendant. Beyond that, the new law stipulates that the defendant has just five business days after the order is entered to arrange to sell any surrendered firearm to a licensed retail dealer of firearms who shall be authorized to take possession of that purchased firearm from the law enforcement agency to which it was surrendered. This sale must be completed no later than ten business days after the order is entered.
Click here to read the full text of the new domestic violence law.
In addition to the new gun laws, there are also enhanced penalties for certain domestic violence offenses:
- Homicide, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1 et seq.
- Aggravated assault and assault by auto or vessel pursuant to subsection b. and c. of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1
- Kidnapping, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1
- Criminal restraint, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2
- Sexual assault, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2
- Criminal sexual contact, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3
The new law provides that a person will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment as follows: 18 months for a second or subsequent crime of the fourth degree, five years for a second or subsequent crime of the third degree, 10 years for a crime of the second degree, and 20 years for a crime of the first degree, unless the provisions of any other law provide for a higher mandatory minimum term.
To learn more about domestic violence laws, restraining orders, and the impact of restraining orders on gun ownership, contact the restraining order attorneys at the Tormey Law Firm today.