Domestic Violence and Firearms: What You Need to Know

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As should be expected, the New Jersey courts take domestic violence quite seriously. If you or your spouse owns guns, you may be concerned for more than one reason. Obviously, safety trumps all else. For those who carry firearms as part of their job, domestic violence allegations prove problematic.

In a typical scenario, it starts like this. You and your spouse get into a heated argument and exchange loud expletives. It seems your wife suspects you of cheating with her college roommate.

Your tempers escalate, and the police come to your door. Apparently, one of your neighbors heard your wife threaten to kill you and her girlfriend. And, that’s when it begins.

In the meantime, you might personally view the matter as nothing more than some angry words. After all, it’s not the first time your wife has verbally attacked you in a jealous rage. However, she is a police officer and has her gun at home.

So, what happens now? You might expect law enforcement officers to side with their own. However, they have a job to do, and most won’t risk the chance of someone causing physical harm.

It depends. It’s up to the police to assess the situation and determine how to proceed. In fact, your side of the story may well determine whether the officers need to seize the weapons in the house.

In your case, you might not be afraid and decide you do not need protection. Meanwhile, you should absolutely let the police know if you also think you need a temporary restraining order. There’s no need to take chances.

Unfortunately, there’s another consideration. Some people will feign acts of domestic violence because they want to cause trouble for their spouse. Obviously, if your husband or wife is a police officer, you can guess what seizing weapons mean to his or her job.

Domestic Violence and Firearms: The Law

NJSA 2C:25-21 provides some valuable insight concerning domestic violence and weapons. The following are considered weapons that may be seized in connection with domestic violence:

  • Machine guns
  • Handguns
  • Rifles and shotguns
  • Assault firearms
  • Anything else with lethal capacities, such as switchblades or daggers

When law enforcement authorities appear in response to a domestic violence situation, they make a few assessments. Of course, it’s critical to note if the victim seems injured as a result of domestic violence. This includes checking to see if there are visible signs of bodily injury or if the victim expresses physical pain or appears to suffer from a physical impairment.

The officers will also question both individuals to determine whether weapons are on the premises.

If the police establish probable cause that the victim’s injuries related to the use of a firearm, the weapon will be seized. The same is true if the officers have reason to believe the firearms would expose the victim to a risk of serious bodily injury.

In addition to the firearms themselves, the police will also seize “firearm purchaser identification card or permit to purchase a handgun issued to the person accused of the act of domestic violence.”

You should know there are laws regarding seizing weapons, not in plain view. However, if the victim may give consent of a search of the premises, provided he or she lives there.

Restraining Orders

As you most likely know, many actions constitute predicate acts of domestic violence. In some cases, it’s words that cause fear and the request for a restraining order.

If the court finds a reason to execute a temporary restraining order, weapons must be turned over. Of course, the same is true for final restraining orders.

Meanwhile, defendants who do not voluntarily turn over firearms face charges of criminal contempt. They will then be arrested, and the court will order the police to search and seize the weapons.

Contact Us

There’s no doubt that allegations of domestic violence come with serious consequences. As an experienced family law attorney, Sam Stoia understands both sides of the issue. If you are involved in a conflict that rises to the level of a restraining order, you need help. Contact us to set up a meeting to discuss your concerns.