The experienced criminal defense lawyers at the Tormey Law Firm LLC recently defended a client in the Bergen County Superior Court, which is located in Hackensack, New Jersey. The client had been charged with unlawful possession of a weapon in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5. Since the statute classifies illegal possession of a handgun as a second degree felony, the client was facing 5-10 years in New Jersey State Prison, with a presumption of imprisonment even though she had no prior criminal record. Additionally, because of New Jersey’s strict gun laws, codified in the Graves Act, a conviction could have resulted in the client being hit with a minimum mandatory term of incarceration before becoming eligible for parole. The typical offer on a gun case in New Jersey for a defendant with no prior record is five years in prison, with three of those years to be served without the possibility of early release on parole.
The facts of the case were as follows: Our client was a female driver who worked for a bail bonds company based out of Virginia. She was traveling to New Jersey for work and got stopped for a traffic violation. During the traffic stop, the patrol officer reportedly discovered a small handgun in her possession. The handgun was not properly registered or permitted in the State of New Jersey. Although the client had legally purchased the firearm in Virginia and she had a valid permit to carry the gun in Virginia, she did not legally have the right to possess the weapon in New Jersey. Additionally, the weapon was not properly secured in the vehicle trunk, nor was it in a locked gun case, both of which would be required if she was merely transporting the handgun through NJ in a legal manner.
Based on our client’s positive background and her lack of criminal history, we applied the client for the New Jersey Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program. This is an alternative sentencing program that allows defendants in criminal cases to not only stay out of prison but also to avoid a felony conviction on their permanent record, so long as they successfully complete the probationary period. The assistant prosecutor in this case had to apply to the Attorney General’s Office for a Graves Act waiver and the head Bergen County prosecutor himself had to approve her admission into PTI. The great news for the client was that once all of this had been accomplished and she was successfully placed into the PTI program, she was able to avoid prison and keep her record clear of a criminal conviction.
This was a wonderful outcome for our client and a major victory for the Tormey Law Firm.