State v. Riley

Decision Date27 January 1976
Citation352 A.2d 257,69 N.J. 217
PartiesSTATE of New Jersey, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Charles RILEY, Defendant-Respondent.
CourtNew Jersey Supreme Court

See also, 69 N.J. 222, 352 A.2d 260.

Peter N. Gilbreth, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff-appellant (William F. Hyland, Atty. Gen., attorney).

Leonard A. Cinaglia, Audubon, for defendant-respondent (Edward L. Gatier, Malaga, attorney).

The opinion of the Court was delivered by


Defendant was indicted on a charge that he unlawfully 'possessed in a vehicle, to wit, an automobile, a rifle' without having first obtained a firearms purchaser identification card, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2A:151--41. There were two other persons in the automobile with defendant at the time, one of whom, the owner of the rifle, had been issued such a card. Following a trial and a jury verdict of 'guilty of constructive possession,' the trial judge, on defendant's motion, set aside the jury verdict and entered a judgment of acquittal, holding in effect that where all three occupants of the automobile were in joint possession of the rifle and one of them had a firearms purchaser identification card, the requirements of the statute were met as to all of those in joint possession of the rifle.

The State, pursuant to R. 2:3--1(b)(3), appealed the judgment n.o.v. and the Appellate Division affirmed on the same grounds given by the trial judge. We granted the State's petition for certification. 68 N.J. 150, 343 A.2d 438 (1975). We reverse and reinstate the jury verdict of guilty.

The evidence showed that in the early morning hours of December 30, 1972, Joseph Shipley, James Meadows and defendant decided to 'jack' for deer. 1 Shipley brought along a Winchester rifle which he had purchased after having been issued a firearms purchaser identification card. The three men used Meadows' car which was equipped with a high-powered portable searchlight. Defendant sat in the back of the car. There was some dispute as to where the rifle was located. Shipley, who testified as a State witness, said it was in the back of the car with defendant who was to shoot a deer if one was spotted. However, the State conservation officer, who saw the occupants of the car 'lighting for deer,' gave chase and eventually overtook the car, testified that he found the rifle lying lengthwise on the console between the two front bucket seats.

The statute which defendant was charged with violating is part of our Gun Control Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:151--1 Et seq., and in pertinent part reads as follows:

N.J.S.A. 2A:151--41.

'Except as hereinafter provided, any person who carries, holds or possesses in any automobile * * * or other vehicle * * * or in his possession or under his control in any public place or public area:

b. A rifle or shotgun without first having obtained a firearms purchaser identification card in accordance with the provisions of this chapter * * *

c. * * * is guilty of a high misdemeanor.' 2

The statutory provisions concerning a firearms purchaser identification card are contained in N.J.S.A. 2A:151--32 Et seq., the relevant portions of which may be summarized as follows. Section 32 provides that no person shall receive, purchase or otherwise acquire a rifle or shotgun unless such person possesses and exhibits a firearms purchaser identification card (hereinafter identification card) and signs a written certification on a prescribed form stating that he presently complies with the requirements of Section 33. (There is an exception for inheritance or legacy not here applicable.)

Section 33 lists the disabilities which will disqualify a person from being issued an identification card. They include conviction of crime, drug dependency or habitual drunkenness, mental disorder, physical defect or sickness which would make it unsafe for a person to handle firearms, being under the age of 18 years, etc.

Section 34 empowers the chief of police of an organized full-time police department of the municipality where the applicant resides, or the Superintendent of the State Police, on application, to issue an identification card to any person qualified under the provisions of Section 33.

Section 35 prescribes the form of application and information to be furnished, including whether the applicant is addicted to alcohol or drugs, has ever been confined, committed, attended or treated for a mental or psychiatric condition and if so when and where; whether the applicant is or has been a member of any organization which advocates or approves the commission of acts of force and violence either to overthrow the Government of the United States or of this State, or which seeks to deny others their constitutional rights; and whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime, or disorderly persons offense. It also requires that the fingerprints of the applicant are to be obtained and compared with available fingerprint records, and the...

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6 cases
  • State v. Brown
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • July 24, 1979, in the sense that the ownership in another would exclude or displace defendant's capacity to control the drugs. See State v. Riley, 69 N.J. 217, 352 A.2d 257 (1976); State v. McMenamin, supra; State v. Thomas, 105 N.J.Super. 331, 252 A.2d 215 (App.Div.1969), aff'd o. b. 57 N.J. 143, 270......
  • State v. Stewart
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • June 25, 1984
    ...a front seat passenger, was in possession of the gun, found protruding from the cushions of the car's back seat. In State v. Riley, 69 N.J. 217, 352 A.2d 257 (1976), the jury found defendant guilty of "constructive possession" of a rifle in a vehicle without a purchaser identification card.......
  • State v. Wright
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court — Appellate Division
    • January 20, 1978
    ... ... State v. Hatch, 64 N.J. 179, 313 A.2d 797 (1973); Siccardi v. State, 59 N.J. 545, 284 A.2d 533 (1971); Burton v. Sills, 53 N.J. 86, 248 A.2d 521 (1968), app. dism. 394 U.S. 812, 89 S.Ct. 1486, 22 L.Ed.2d 748 (1969). See also, State v. Repp, 69 N.J. 222, 352 A.2d 260 (1976); State v. Riley, 69 N.J. 217, 352 A.2d 257 ... (1976). In view of this policy, we are satisfied that the Legislature plainly intended that there be no merger of a conviction for an offense under N.J.S.A. 2A:151-8, a misdemeanor, with one under N.J.S.A. 2A:151-41(a), a high misdemeanor. The two statutory ... ...
  • State v. Repp
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • January 27, 1976
    ...ruling on this issue was correct and the Appellate Division erred in not sustaining it. We have this same date decided State v. Riley, 69 N.J. 217, 352 A.2d 257 (1976). Our opinion therein is also concerned with the New Jersey Gun Control Law, N.J.S.A. 2A:151--1 Et seq., and, in particular,......
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