Many people consider purchasing a gun to be an effective method of self-defense – as well as a way to safeguard their family – but this constitutional right is not guaranteed to all citizens, particularly individuals who have been convicted of certain types of crimes. Additionally, some states have stricter gun laws than others, which can create additional barriers toward firearm possession.
With its “highly restrictive firearms laws,”New Jersey is at odds with the National Rifle Association. The debate regarding the rights of citizens under the Second Amendment has been ongoing in the courts. In New Jersey and many other states, individuals who have been convicted of certain felonies are not permitted to purchase, own, or possess any type of firearm. These crimes include robbery, aggravated assault, domestic violence, and other types of violent offenses. Individuals with mental health or drug abuse histories may also be barred from having a weapon in New Jersey.
If you have a criminal record or a mental health or drug use history that prevents you from purchasing or possessing a firearm in New Jersey, getting your record expunged may legally restore your ability to own a weapon in the state. Because expungement can be a lengthy and complicated process, before getting started, it's important to know your rights and whether you are eligible for expungement.
What Are Your Firearms Rights in New Jersey?
Even without a criminal record, acquiring a firearm in New Jersey can be difficult and complex. Anyone wishing to purchase a firearm in the state must first get a firearm purchaser identification (FID) card – and for a handgun, a separate permit is also required from the local police department. Once you've gotten your FID, you may legally keep a firearm in your home or business, as well as transport your firearm in your vehicle as long as it is stored in a locked container and the bullets are removed and stored separately.
In New Jersey, the state's constitution does not state outright that citizens have the right to keep and bear arms – however, anyone with the appropriate documentation and training should be able to purchase and keep a weapon, granted they do not have any criminal, drug use, or mental health records that bar them from ownership.
In addition to individuals with certain criminal convictions or mental health and drug use histories, no one under the age of 18 can purchase any firearm, and no one under 21 can purchase a handgun. Individuals suffering from diseases or disabilities that would make possession of a firearm dangerous may also be excluded from having a gun in the state of New Jersey.
How Does Expungement Work in New Jersey?
The New Jersey Criminal Code of Justice allows certain criminal offenses to be erased from your record. The hope of this approach is to help young people move forward with their lives, once they have completed their imprisonment or probation and paid their fines. Lawmakers believe certain individuals can be reformed and that having a criminal record makes their already difficult life worse.
Not all criminal convictions are eligible for expungement in New Jersey. Ineligible crimes include:
- Kidnapping and related offenses
- Sexual offenses
- Endangering the welfare of children
- Certain types of drug-related offenses
Are You Eligible for Expungement in New Jersey?
The majority of indictable adult offenders are eligible for expungement after six years (decreased from 10 years in 2018), assuming all conditions of the case were satisfied. To qualify, the individual must not have had subsequent criminal convictions or four or more disorderly person offenses or petty disorderly person offenses. Those wishing to apply may do so in the court where the conviction occurred.
Some individuals may be eligible for expungement when only five years have elapsed if all conditions of the conviction were satisfied. To qualify, the individual must not have had any subsequent convictions, including any disorderly person or petty disorderly person offenses. The decision to allow for expungement under these circumstances is based on the court's discretion.
Other individuals may also qualify for expungement, though this is based on the court's discretion and takes into account the severity of the offenses and other factors. If you have been convicted of a crime and you are uncertain whether you are eligible for expungement, it will be helpful to speak with an experienced attorney. The benefits of a clean record on employment, housing, and other opportunities are numerous – including your ability to purchase and possess a firearm in New Jersey.
Can Expungement Impact Your Firearms Rights?
If you have your criminal record expunged in New Jersey, it is possible your ability to purchase and keep a firearm in the state may be restored. Having your record expunged hides certain criminal convictions from the public, meaning they will not show up in most background checks. In many cases, this allows an individual to get on with their life without the specter of their criminal past hanging over them. Expungement can offer someone a new start and peace of mind, as well as the ability to pursue opportunities they could not have when they had a criminal record, such as purchasing and owning a weapon.
After having your record expunged, when you are asked if you've ever been convicted of a crime, you can legally say that you have not. Because applications for most jobs, housing, and firearms include a criminal background check, having your criminal record erased from public view can be enormously helpful toward moving on with your life and having your rights restored.
Curious About Expungement? An Experienced Attorney Can Help
Charges involving weapons can have serious lifelong consequences, and the benefits of having your record expunged can be numerous, particularly when applying for jobs, housing, or firearms. In New Jersey, the gun laws are unusually restrictive, meaning it is particularly important to consult with an experienced attorney to see if you are eligible for expungement.
Additionally, gun rights in the state are continually under attack by the state legislature, with minimum prison sentences on the rise. Local city ordinances further layer on the complexity of these legal concerns. To discuss the details of your case, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686.