The Smoking Gun: Weapons Seizures as a Result of a Domestic Violence Complaint

It is probably common knowledge that the issuance of a Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) will lead to the "temporary" seizure of all weapons as well as all firearms permits possessed by the defendant. In fact, pre-printed on page 3 of every Domestic Violence TRO form in New Jersey is a Warrant to Search For and to Seize Weapons for Safekeeping" which will be authorized by the reviewing judge upon a recitation of probable cause that the defendant possesses any weapons. Suffice it to say, the legal requirements are not particularly rigorous for the initial seizure of weapons in conjunction with an allegation of domestic violence.

Of course, if the Court finds that the basis exists to convert the TRO to a Final Restraining Order (FRO), then the seizure of the weapons and all firearms permits becomes permanent. The question that arises, however, is the disposition of the seized weapons following a dismissal of the underlying Domestic Violence TRO. In particular, even if the TRO is dismissed, and provided that the States does so within statutory prescribed timeframes, the State may nonetheless seek the permanent forfeiture of an individual's firearms and also the right of that individual to possess any firearms.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, even if the chief of police of the department which seized the weapons does not object to the return of the weapons, the automatic return of the weapons is by no means a certainty.  In fact, with some degree of regularity the State opposes the return of the weapons even after a dismissal of the underlying domestic violence matter -- a process which sets up a weapons forfeiture hearing in which the individual's fitness to own firearms is front and center.

Therefore, the effects of a domestic violence matter, even one which has been dismissed, can have far-reaching consequences. Be sure to call a member of our legal team at Cohn Lifland Herrmann & Knopf LLP if you have any questions, either as a plaintiff or as a defendant, in a domestic violence matter or its consequences.