What is the Graves Act?

March 1, 2021

What Is the Graves Act?

The Graves Act refers to the state law in New Jersey governing firearms and weapons criminal offenses. The Graves Act is considered one of the most strict criminal weapons statutes of any state in the country. The Graves Act is notable because it requires violators to serve lengthy prison sentences, which include significant periods of parole ineligibility. The Graves’ Act’s harsh punishments apply even to a first-time offender.

What Does the Graves Act Cover?

The Graves Act, codified at N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6, covers criminal offenses involving handguns, rifles, assault weapons ,machine funds, shotguns, and defaced firearms. A person can be charged under the Graves Act for offenses that include:

  • Possessing a firearm without the required permits
  • Possessing a firearm in the course of trafficking or dealing controlled dangerous substances
  • Defacing a firearm (e.g. obscuring or removing a serial number)
  • Possessing a firearm when not permitted to possess a firearm (such as due to a felony conviction or a domestic violence order)
  • Illegally manufacturing or transporting weapons
  • Possessing a firearm for an unlawful purpose

Many people unwittingly commit conduct that constitutes a Graves Act offense, either because they don’t know that the conduct falls under the statute or they are unaware of the harsh punishments of the statute. As a result, it is easy to be facing serious prison time for a seemingly minor firearms-related offense.

What Is the Effect of the Graves Act?

When a person is convicted of a Graves Act offense, they will be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence, which must include a significant period of parole ineligibility, even if a defendant has no prior criminal history. For example, Graves Act sentences begin at a mandatory five years in prison with a 42 month period of parole ineligibility. The sentences only go up depending on the seriousness of the offense and whether the defendant has prior convictions. 

Read more: New Jersey Self Protection Law

What Happens If the Graves Act Is Applied to Your Case?

If the Graves Act applies to your case, the prosecution is restricted in what kind of a plea bargain they can offer you, since you must serve mandatory sentences for a Graves Act conviction. As a result, if the prosecution wishes to offer you a plea bargain in your case, it must apply to the New Jersey Attorney General’s office for a “Graves Act waiver.” If the waiver is granted, then you can be offered plea deals below the mandatory sentences under the Graves Act. 

Typically, Graves Act waivers are granted to reduce the prison time and period of parole ineligibility in a plea offer. For example, rather than the mandatory minimum five years’ prison and 42 months parole ineligibility required by the Graves Act, waivers are commonly granted to reduce the plea offer to five years imprisonment with a one-year period of parole ineligibility.

Less frequently granted Graves Act waivers can allow defendants to avoid prison altogether. A waiver may allow the prosecution to offer a defendant a plea deal with probation in lieu of prison time. In the best case scenario, a Graves Act waiver may be sought that allows a defendant to apply for admission to the pre-trial intervention program, successful completion of which means a defendant spends no time in prison and has no conviction record.

Contact an Experienced Marlton Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Weapons Charges in New Jersey

Were you arrested or charged with weapons offenses in New Jersey? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The Law Office of John B. Brennan has successfully represented clients charged with weapons offenses in Mount Holly, Mount Laurel, Pemberton, Cherry Hill and throughout New Jersey. Call (856) 988-5443 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 10,000 Lincoln Dr. East, Suite 201, Marlton, NJ 08053.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.