UPDATED MARCH 5, 2019
As a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer, I am frequently asked by clients how a guilty plea will affect them. In fact, criminal defense attorneys are prohibited from providing misleading material information that results in an uninformed plea. This may be considered ineffective assistance of counsel.
Several weeks ago, the Appellate Division handed down an interesting decision concerning the loss of a firearms permit. In State v. Agathis, No. A-2211-09T4 (App. Div. 2012), the defendant was accused of assaulting his wife, resulting in charges of domestic violence (and charges of possession of the illegal ammunition that was recovered during a search of his home). The defendant pleaded guilty to simple assault, which is only a disorderly persons offense. At sentencing, the defendant was advised by the judge that he had to give up his firearms permit, and that he was prohibited from re-applying for a permit during his period of probation. However, because of the guilty plea the defendant would actually be completely barred from ever applying for a gun permit, even after the probation ended. The defendant only found out about this after he entered his guilty plea.
The defendant filed an appeal, and alleged that he was not informed of this consequence. In fact, N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c) specifically states that anyone who pleads guilty or is found guilty of any act of domestic violence, even if no gun is involved, is completely prohibited from ever owning a firearm. As such, the Appellate Division held that there should be a hearing to determine whether the defendant would have agreed to the plea had he been informed of this consequence. If the hearing shows that he would not have agreed to the plea, then the defendant will be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea and proceed to a trial.
If you are charged with any crime in New Jersey, especially domestic violence, it is important to ask your defense attorney whether pleading guilty will affect gun ownership, if that is something that is important to you. And of course, if you are accused of any crime, we ask that you please call us for a 100% free consultation with a New Jersey criminal defense attorney.