As part of my criminal practice, clients come to me with all kinds of criminal cases, including gun charges. Gun crime is a serious issue nowadays, and of course there is a lot of media attention regarding gun crimes. New Jersey politicians have responded to this by passing some of the strictest gun laws in the country, and often people are charged with gun crimes when they did not even believe that they were doing something wrong.

In New Jersey, there is a law called the Graves Act, which essentially requires the court to sentence all people who plead guilty or are found guilty at trial to a mandatory prison sentence. If you are reading this because you or a loved one was recently charged with a gun crime, you should let that statement sink in for a second. This means that all criminal defendants in New Jersey are fighting for their freedom when charged with gun-related offenses.

However, just because the gun laws in New Jersey are harsh does not mean that a defense is completely a lost cause. An attorney could get charged dropped either because there was no crime committed by the defendant or because the gun was only found due to an invalid search. But even if someone knowingly or unknowingly violated the gun laws in this state, and the police caught them red-handed, an attorney could still help the person avoid prison time.

The reason for this is because there is a process whereby a person could acquire a Graves Act waiver. This means that the prosecutor and the judge would have to agree to waive the required prison sentence pursuant to the Graves Act. This is not something that is frequently granted. If someone is a violent criminal who used a gun during the commission of a robbery, for example, they would not be given a waiver. Rather, the attorney would essentially have to convince the prosecutor and judge that the client is model citizen who is not violent but simply violated the regulatory requirements of gun ownership. A good example of this would be a person who works in a store, which has been robbed in the past, and he illegally bought a gun and brought it to work for protection.

It takes a lot of work on the attorney’s party to get a Graves Act waiver and the penalties for gun crimes are quite severe in New Jersey (often at least 5 years in prison, and sometimes over 10 years). Therefore, if you are charged with a gun crime then it is very important to contact an attorney right away.

Article by Daniel A. Levy, Esq.