N.J.S.A. 2C:25-27. Conditions of Sentencing of Defendant Found Guilty of Domestic Violence. is amended to read as follows:
c. (1) When a defendant is found guilty of a crime or offense involving domestic violence, the court shall inform the defendant that the defendant is prohibited from purchasing, owning, possessing, or controlling a firearm pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-7, and from receiving or retaining a firearms purchaser identification card or permit to purchase a handgun pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3. The court shall order the defendant to arrange for the immediate surrender to a law enforcement officer of any firearm that has not already been seized or surrendered and any firearms purchaser identification card or permit to purchase a handgun possessed by the defendant. No later than five business days after the order is entered, however, the defendant may arrange to sell any surrendered firearm to a licensed retail dealer of firearms who shall be authorized to take possession of that purchased firearm from the law enforcement agency to which it was surrendered no later than 10 business days after the order is entered. Any card or permit issued to the defendant shall be deemed immediately revoked. The court shall establish a process for notifying the appropriate authorities of the conviction requiring the revocation of the card or permit. A law enforcement officer accepting a surrendered firearm shall provide the defendant with a receipt listing the date of surrender, the name of the defendant, and any item that has been surrendered, including the serial number, manufacturer, and model of the surrendered firearm. The defendant shall provide a copy of this receipt to the prosecutor within 48 hours of service of the order, and shall attest under penalty that any firearms owned or possessed at the time of the order have been transferred in accordance with this section and that the defendant currently does not possess any firearms. The defendant alternatively may attest under penalty that he did not own or possess a firearm at the time of the order and currently does not possess a firearm. If the court, upon motion of the prosecutor, finds probable cause that the defendant has failed to surrender any firearm, card, or permit, the court may order a search for and removal of these items at any location where the judge has reasonable cause to believe these items are located. The judge shall state with specificity the reasons for and the scope of the search and seizure authorized by the order.
The use of the phrase “reasonable cause” here is unduly vague and confusing. It shows how out of touch our Legislature can be. It will almost certainly be interpreted by our courts to mean “probable cause”, the standard for the issuance for search warrants that has been contained in our state and federal constitutions for hundreds of years. “Reasonable suspicion” is a lower standard that applies to limited searches like physical “pat downs” of the exterior of one’s clothing. The combination of the two concepts with the phrase “reasonable cause” is likely to create confusion and litigation.
(2) A law enforcement officer who receives a firearm that is surrendered, but not purchased and taken possession of by a licensed retail dealer of firearms within 10 business days of when the order is entered pursuant to paragraph (1) of this subsection, may dispose of the surrendered firearm in accordance with the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2C:64-6. A firearm purchased by a licensed retail dealer from a defendant shall become part of the inventory of the dealer.