All firearms purchasers in New Jersey are required to obtain either a permit to purchase a handgun or a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card (FPIC) from local law enforcement or the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) before purchasing a firearm. When applying for a handgun permit or a FPIC, however, individuals may be denied as a result of either: 1) an indictable (or felony) conviction; 2) or a conviction for a disorderly persons offense (or misdemeanor) involving domestic violence; or 3) certain juvenile convictions.
Thus, having a conviction on your criminal record can restrict you from being able to exercise your constitutional right to purchase and hold a firearm. Fortunately, however, New Jersey’s expungement mechanism allows you to erase the record of many arrests, thereby restoring your ability to obtain a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card in New Jersey. Moreover, a New Jersey expungement will clear you to obtain a gun permit both federally and for New Jersey.
New Jersey Firearms Law
N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c) sets forth the eligibility requirements for obtaining a handgun permit or firearms purchaser identification card in New Jersey. According to that statute:
. . . No handgun purchase permit or firearms purchaser identification card shall be issued:
(1) To any person who has been convicted of any [felony], or a disorderly persons offense involving an act of domestic violence as defined in section 3 of P.L.1991, c. 261 (C.2C:25-19), whether or not armed with or possessing a weapon at the time of such offense;
. . .
(7) To any person who as a juvenile was adjudicated delinquent for an offense which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a crime and the offense involved the unlawful use or possession of a weapon, explosive or destructive device or is enumerated in subsection d. of section 2 of P.L.1997, c. 117 (C.2C:43-7.2) . . . .
In other words, the following individuals will be denied a handgun permit or FPIC in New Jersey:
- Those who have ever been convicted of a felony;
- Those who have ever been convicted of a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor) involving an act of domestic violence; and
“Domestic violence” in New Jersey means the occurrence of any of the following 14 acts against a person protected under New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Act:
c. Terroristic threats
e. Criminal restraint
f. False imprisonment
g. Sexual assault
h. Criminal sexual contact
j. Criminal mischief
l. Criminal trespass
- Those who were adjudicated delinquent for a felony offense involving the unlawful use or possession of a weapon.
Federal Firearms Law
Like New Jersey law, federal law also prohibits any person who has been convicted of a felony from owning, carrying, or purchasing a firearm. So too, federal law prohibits any person who has been convicted of any act of domestic violence from owning, carrying, or purchasing a firearm.
Unlike New Jersey’s definition of domestic violence, however, which is much broader than the federal definition and includes actions not directly related to violence such as criminal mischief, criminal trespass, harassment, and stalking, the federal definition of domestic violence includes relates only to violence and includes any use or attempted use of force or a deadly weapon. Thus, for example, a New Jersey disorderly persons conviction for harassment under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act in New Jersey would not prevent an individual from being able to obtain a firearm on the federal law – even without an expungement.
On the other hand, if you were convicted of a New Jersey domestic violence offense that did involve violence (such as assault, homicide, kidnapping, sexual assault, terroristic threats, or criminal sexual contact), you would not be able to obtain a firearm under federal law until that offense is expunged. Moreover, some of these more serious offenses in New Jersey would be considered non-expungeable — regardless of their age — such as homicide, kidnapping, and false imprisonment. See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(b) for a complete list of non-expungeable offenses in New Jersey.
What if my conviction was expunged?
If your offense is eligible for expungement, however, and you successfully expunge the record, then you would not need to disclose the expunged offense when applying for a gun permit and the expunged record would not prevent you from being eligible to obtain a gun permit in New Jersey.
As can be seen on New Jersey’s Application for Firearms Purchaser Identification Card and/or Handgun Purchase Permit, questions 18 through 20 ask if you have ever been convicted of a juvenile offense, a disorderly persons offense, or a felony. Those questions, however, specifically exclude records that have been “expunged or sealed” from their scope. The same is true for questions 16 through 18 of New Jersey’s Application for Permit to Carry a Handgun. Thus, expunged offenses do not need to be disclosed and will not be held against you.
In addition to removing any New Jersey firearms disabilities associated with your conviction, an expungement would also remove any federal firearms disabilities. Pursuant to federal law located at 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20), expunged offenses “shall not be considered a conviction for purposes of this chapter” unless the expungement order specifically stated that the individual may not hold or control firearms.
What if my firearms application was previously denied as a result of a conviction?
If you previously applied for and were denied a gun permit or if your gun permit was revoked as a result of a criminal conviction, which you subsequently had expunged, you should note Question 27 on New Jersey’s Application for Firearms Purchaser Identification Card and/or Handgun Purchase Permit and Question 19 on New Jersey’s Application for Permit to Carry a Handgun — both of which ask if you ever had a prior firearms application denied or revoked.
Even though you will not be required to disclose information relating to your expunged offense on the prior questions, you would have to disclose that you were previously denied or revoked a firearm and explain the reasons for the denial or revocation, even though they relate to offenses that were subsequently expunged.
New Jersey Criminal Record Expungement Lawyers
If you have further questions about your eligibility for expungement in New Jersey, or the restoration of firearms privileges in New Jersey, contact the New Jersey criminal record expungement lawyers at Katherine O’Brien Law today for a free consultation.