Even if no one actually gets hurt, pointing a firearm at another person can land you in serious criminal trouble in New Jersey. Perhaps it was by accident or maybe an ill-humored joke, but if you are facing charges for aggravated assault or assault on a police officer, your liberty is at stake.
Legal Implications of Pointing a Gun at Someone in New Jersey
If you point a firearm at someone, you can be convicted of fourth degree aggravated assault in New Jersey. In order to be found guilty of this offense, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intentionally pointed a firearm at another person while demonstrating extreme disregard to the value of the person’s life. If convicted of fourth degree aggravated assault for pointing a firearm, you may be sentenced to up to 18 months in prison and face fines of up to $10,000.
Special Consideration for Pointing a Firearm at Police Officer
If you take these same actions against a police officer, point a laser device at them, or even just display or brandish a weapon in a police officer’s direction, you can be charged with aggravated assault as a third degree offense. If convicted, you can face between 3 and 5 years in state prison and be ordered to pay fines of up to $15,000.
In order to be found guilty, the prosecution must prove that you knowingly pointed or brandished a firearm at a law enforcement officer or in their direction, you knew the individual was a law enforcement officer, and you did so under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of the officer’s life. With regard to elements like your knowledge that the individual was a law enforcement officer, the prosecution must prove that you were actually aware of the fact or you were aware that there is a high probability that the individual was a law enforcement officer.
It is also third degree aggravated assault to point, use, or display an imitation firearm at or in the direction of a law enforcement officer to intimidate them, put them in fear of bodily injury, or for any unlawful purpose. It does not matter if you knew the gun was fake or did not intend to actually hurt the officer. The imitation firearm must merely be reasonably capable of being mistaken as a real firearm.
Pointing a firearm or imitation firearm at an officer is subject to New Jersey’s No Early Release Act (NERA), which requires those convicted of pointing a gun at an officer to serve at least 85% of their prison sentence before they can become eligible for parole.
Pointing a Firearm and Accompanying Criminal Offenses
Depending on the circumstances giving rise to your aggravated assault charges, you may face additional criminal charges like unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, terroristic threats, disorderly conduct, or resisting arrest.
New Jersey’s gun laws are some of the toughest in the nation. Unlawful possession of a weapon or possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose can result in years of imprisonment with a minimum period of parole ineligibility. The same circumstances giving rise to a charge for aggravated assault can form the basis of a possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose charge, which carries potential imprisonment of five to ten years.
Preparing a Strong Defense if You Have been Charged with Pointing a Gun
There is no one-size-fits-all defense approach for pointing a firearm charges in New Jersey, and it is critical that you have the facts and evidence in your case examined thoroughly by an attorney who has handled many of these cases before. Ultimately, the goal of your defense team is to exonerate you or substantially reduce the charges against you and, therefore, your potential penalties.
If you are a first-time offender, you may be eligible to participate in Pretrial Intervention (PTI), which can enable you to avoid a criminal conviction. However, if your specific charges are subject to the Graves Act, then you will have to obtain a Graves Act Waiver in order to be able to participate in a diversionary program like PTI. To obtain a Graves Act waiver, you must be a first time offender and show that the imposition of the prison term required under Graves would not serve the interests of justice in your case. This can be a complicated process, and it is very important that you have the assistance of a knowledgeable defense attorney to have you navigate your way through it.
Securing a Graves Act Waiver is no easy task; however, it is by no means an impossibility. With a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense lawyer who has secured many Gravest Act Waivers, negotiated pleas to lesser sentences, assisted with the process for successful admission into PTI for clients, and won case dismissals involving guns and other weapons many times in their career, you can trust that your case and your future is in good hands.
Need to Speak with a Lawyer about a Pointing a Firearm Case in Morris County NJ
As there are often other criminal charges that accompany a charge of pointing a gun at someone, particularly if that person is a police officer, it is necessary to take a holistic approach to your defense strategy. For a complimentary consultation with an experienced attorney defending clients accused of pointing a firearm in Morristown, Rockaway, Parsippany, Roxbury, Mount Olive, Denville, Dover, Florham Park, and other towns in Morris County and across New Jersey, contact 973-524-7238, or fill out this form today.