Under New Jersey law, an application for a permit to carry a handgun can be fairly straightforward. Actually getting a permit to carry is another story.
Once a carry permit is issued, any person holding a permit to carry is authorized for a period of 2 years to carry a handgun in all parts of the State with certain exceptions.1 Those exceptions include carrying a firearm in or upon any building or the grounds of a school, college, university or other educational institution or carrying a firearm on a school bus.2 The permit to carry is renewable every 2 years by following the same procedure followed in the original application for the permit.3
Applying for a Permit to Carry a Handgun.
The application form for a permit to carry must be a form prescribed by the Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. The form asks for specific information regarding the applicant's background, including, but not limited to, full name, date of birth, sex, residence, occupation, place of business or employment and the physical description of the applicant. The application must be signed under oath and must be endorsed by no less than 3 reputable people who have known the applicant for at least 3 years. These individuals must certify that the applicant is a person of good moral character and behavior.
The application must initially be submitted to the Chief of Police in the municipality where the applicant resides. Certain exceptions apply for armored car companies. If the applicant does not live in the State of New Jersey or if there is no local Police Chief, then the application is to be submitted to the Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. Next, either the Chief or the Superintendent will fingerprint the applicant and compare the fingerprints with records maintained at the local, county, state and the federal levels. Law enforcement will also determine and record a description of each handgun the applicant intends to carry.
Prior to approving the application, the Police must determine that the applicant is a person of good moral character and must determine that the applicant is not subject to any specific disabilities.4These disabilities include:
- conviction of any crime or conviction of a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor) involving domestic violence;
- any drug dependent person, any person confined for a mental disorder or any person who is a habitual drunkard;
- a physical defect or disease which would make it unsafe for the applicant to handle a firearm, any person who has been confined for a mental disorder or who suffers from alcoholism unless the applicant produces satisfactory proof that the applicant no longer suffers from such a disability to the extent it would interfere with the safe handling of a firearm;
- any person who knowingly falsifies any information on a firearms application form;
- any person under the age of 21;
- where the issuance of the permit would not be in the interest of the public health, safety or welfare;
- any person who is subject to a domestic violence restraining order which prohibits possession of a firearm;
- any person who as a juvenile was adjudicated delinquent for an offense that would constitute a crime if the person was an adult and where the offense involved the unlawful use or possession of a weapon, explosive or destructive device or involved certain other violent acts;
- any person whose firearm has been seized pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence act and whose firearm has not been returned.5
In addition to the above, the Police must also determine that the applicant is thoroughly familiar with the safe handling and use of handguns and must determine that the applicant has a "justifiable need" to carry a handgun. "Justifiable need" has been the subject of numerous judicial opinions and shall be discussed later on in this article.
The application must be reviewed by the Police and a decision must be rendered within 60 days. If no decision is reached in this time frame (and if no extension of time is granted) the application is deemed to have be approved.6
Judicial Review of a Permit to Carry Application.
In New Jersey a permit to carry can only be issued by a Judge of the Superior Court. Thus while the Police can approve a permit to carry application, only a Judge of the Superior Court may actually issue the permit. If the application is approved by the Police, the applicant must next present the application to a Judge of the Superior Court where the applicant resides or where the applicant intends to carry a handgun to determine whether the permit shall issue.
The Judge reviewing the application examines the application under the same lens that the Police use. The Court must therefore determine whether:
1. the applicant is of good character;
2. the applicant is subject to any of the above-referenced disabilities (conviction of a crime, alcoholism, mental disorder, etc.);
3. the applicant is thoroughly familiar with the safe handling and use of handguns; and
4. the applicant has a "justifiable need" to carry a handgun.
Any person denied a permit to carry by the Police may request a hearing in the Superior Court of the county where the applicant resides or in any county where the applicant intends to carry a handgun in the case of a non-resident, within 30 days of the denial. The same 4 standards enumerated above are considered by the Court in determining whether to issue a permit to carry.7
Judicial hearings on the issuance of a permit to carry can involve any or all of the 4 categories outlined above. These proceedings almost always include, however, presenting evidence related to "justifiable need." In order to meet the "justifiable need" standard, under New Jersey law the applicant must show an urgent necessity to carry a handgun for self protection.8 The applicant must also generally make a showing of specific threats or previous attacks demonstrating a special danger to the applicant's life that cannot be avoided by other means.9
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer.
A permit to carry a handgun cannot be issued by anyone other than a Superior Court Judge. Issuance of a permit often involves a contested hearing in Superior Court, especially where the Police deny the application. Often during handgun permit hearings, sworn testimony is taken, evidence is presented, legal briefs are submitted and legal argument is heard. At Brickfield & Donahue both Mr. Donahue and Mr. Brickfield are Certified Criminal Trial Attorneys. We have helped many people through the process. If you contact us immediately, an experienced handgun permit attorney from our office will do their best to ensure that your case is handled properly and promptly. To contact a criminal defense attorney at Brickfield & Donahue, call (201) 488-7707 or send us an email. Keep in mind that nothing contained in this article should be considered legal advice. The law can and often does change. If you have a specific legal issue or problem, consult an attorney.