Did You Know? New Jersey Can Permanently Seize Your Firearm Without a Conviction

by Allen Robert Thompson on Aug. 24, 2017

Divorce & Family Law Family Law Civil & Human Rights  Constitutional Law 

Summary: New Jersey can permanently seize your firearms without a conviction. Once a firearm has been seized by law enforcement (required during a domestic disturbance call), the prosecutor can then begin a forfeiture action.

Under New Jersey law, the State can file a forfeiture action against any firearms seized due to a domestic violence incident, even if no charges were filed.

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-21, when an officer responding to a domestic violence call concludes there is probable cause that the domestic violence occurred, the office shall arrest the person alleged to have caused the domestic violence.  In addition, the officer shall seize any weapons on the premises that the officer believes would cause a danger to the individual, as well as the firearms purchaser’s identification card (FPID) and/or handgun purchasing permits. Once those weapons (and permits) are seized, they are handed over to the county prosecutor’s office.

Even if any charges or temporary restraining orders are dismissed, the prosecutor then has 45 days to file a forfeiture motion in which the State seeks to obtain title to the firearms.  Under the statute, a hearing must be held within 45 days of the motion (for a statutory maximum of 90 days from the date of seizure).  This 45 day period for a hearing, however, is not necessarily strictly followed in all courts, with some hearings being scheduled several months after the motion was filed and served.  At the hearing, the court will determine whether the individual is a danger to the public safety or otherwise restricted from owning firearms under the law.

Even if you’re not a resident of New Jersey, you may be subject to forfeiture actions based on domestic incidents in New Jersey.  If this is the case, there are often procedural and legal complexities that may prevent the prosecutor from pursuing the motion.  While the court has the authority to review these issues on its own (without you bringing it to the court’s attention), the hearings are often quick and routine, with numerous hearings scheduled for one court session.  Considering the consequences, it is always best to raise these issues.  In some cases, a discussion with the prosecutor’s office may even resolve the issue without the need to go to court.

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