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What is the Graves Act?

On March 17, 2013, Newark police arrested several men, all with significant criminal histories, for various weapons offenses. One incident involved a 34-year-old man who was spotted by police in the stairway of a building holding a .45-caliber gun. The man attempted to discard his gun and run away, but was later captured by the police and found in possession of at least $1,000 worth of heroin. The man, already a convicted felon, has previously been arrested for possession of explosives and other weapons offenses, carjacking, aggravated assault and assault on a police officer.

The state of New Jersey has enacted some of the nation’s most oppressive gun laws and regulations. Most notably of these laws is the “Graves Act”, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6c, which requires the imposition of a minimum term of imprisonment and parole ineligibility upon conviction for certain gun-related crimes. The Graves Act was amended in 2008 to significantly broaden the scope of the statute’s application. Prior to the 2008 amendment, the Graves Act applied only when a person was convicted of possessing or using a firearm while in the course of committing certain predicate crimes, or possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a. However, following the 2008 amendment, the Graves Act also applies to various possessory firearm crimes, including:

  • Unlawful possession of a machine gun, handgun, rifle or shotgun in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5a, b, or c;
  • Possession of a sawed-off shotgun in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3b;
  • Possession of a defaced firearm in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-3d;
  • Possession of a firearm while committing a drug distribution or possession with intent to distribute offense in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4.1a;
  • Possession of certain weapons by persons previously convicted of specified offenses, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7a or b(2);
  • The manufacture, transport, or disposition of a machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, or assault firearm in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-9 a, b, or g;
  • The defacement of a firearm in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-9c.

A person who is convicted of any of the above firearms crimes must be sentenced to a term of imprisonment and minimum term of parole ineligibility fixed at, or between, one-third (1/3) to one-half (1/2) of the sentence imposed, or three (3) years, whichever is greater, or eighteen (18) months in cases involving crimes of the fourth degree. More stringent sanctions are imposed, however, on a person who has previously been convicted of certain firearms offenses. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:44-3(d), a person who is convicted of a Graves Act offense and has previously been convicted of certain firearms offenses must be sentenced to a mandatory extended term of imprisonment. Moreover, the sentence imposed must include a minimum term of parole ineligibility fixed at or between one-third (1/3) to one-half (1/2) of the extended term sentence, or five (5) years, whichever is greater.

If you are charged with a gun crime or facing weapon enhancements on another crime, you need an attorney familiar with the special laws that can affect the outcome of your case. We have handled many of these cases in 20 years of criminal defense practice in New Jersey.

We can answer your questions and effectively represent you on these very serious charges. Call the Law Offices of Gregg A. Wisotsky at 973-735-0232 for a free phone consultation.

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