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Can you get in trouble for displaying an imitation weapon?

On Behalf of | Jan 20, 2022 | Weapons Charges

Using a weapon for illegal purposes can incur criminal charges in New Jersey. You could even face charges if you only intend to use a weapon to break the law. A common example is if someone buys or acquires a firearm with the intention to rob someone using it. However, you may think such laws are not at issue because you only own an imitation firearm, not a real one.

Since an imitation weapon is not capable of inflicting harm like a real weapon, you might feel you can rest easy if you openly display your imitation firearm. Unfortunately, some people run into legal problems even with imitation weapons. It takes certain circumstances for this to happen, however.

Intended illegal use of an imitation weapon

New Jersey law criminalizes weapon possession if you intend to use one for illegal purposes, which means if law enforcement finds you have a firearm or explosives that you plan to use against a person or property, you could wind up in prison for five to 10 years. You may serve up to five years for the intended illegal use of any other kind of weapon.

The same principle applies to imitation weapons. You could face criminal charges and a possible 18 month prison sentence if you intend to use an imitation weapon to commit a crime or if you display it for intended illegal use. Some people may even mistake your imitation weapon for criminal intent. For instance, someone may see you in public displaying your weapon and think it is real and that you plan to rob a store with it.

Mistaking an imitation weapon for a real one

Whether the law will accept that a person could believe that you were holding a real weapon will be important if you face criminal charges. According to state law, an imitation firearm is an object that someone could reasonably believe to be a real weapon. Your actions at the time will also matter. A person would probably think you were holding a real weapon if you had tried to use it to threaten or instill fear in someone.

Additionally, you cannot possess an imitation weapon on school property without incurring a fine and imprisonment at the county jail, so it also matters where you display an imitation weapon. These and other factors will influence your defense if you must defend yourself against a charge of intending to illegally use an imitation weapon.