I’ve written literally hundreds of articles on Pennsylvania and New Jersey criminal laws in my blog and have discussed both jurisdictions in my books, videos, and other publications which are available on this website. As I have stated a number of times, while Pennsylvania and New Jersey border each other, their laws are substantially different in many areas in which our criminal defense law firm, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania commonly represents individuals. If you’ re charged with a crime in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, you should never assume that the law will treat you the same! I can’t tell you how many people the laws are the same in both of these states; this is simply wrong! Even if you aren’t charged with a crime it’s important to keep in mind that when you cross the state line you’re entering into a different legal environment which may or may not honor other state licenses or privileges, especially those related to guns, weapons, firearms (Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act vs. New Jersey Graves Act), drugs, controlled substances, narcotics (medical marijuana), and other common motor vehicle traffic infractions (driving under the influence (DUI), driving while impaired or intoxicated (DWI).
The purpose of this brief blog is to quickly outline 3 areas in which Pennsylvania and New Jersey differ substantially:
- Permit to Carry vs. Permit to Possess
New Jersey is known as a “may issue” state similar to New York, Delaware, and Massachusetts, whereas Pennsylvania is a “shall issue” state like Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. What this means is that it is nearly impossible to obtain a permit to carry a firearm in the state of New Jersey but most individuals can obtain a permit to carry in Pennsylvania provided that they are not considered ineligible based on a prior conviction (usually a felony but some misdemeanors) or some other character issue. Without a permit to carry, you’re not permitted to carry a firearm within New Jersey even if you have a license to carry in Pennsylvania outside of your home or place of business. This means that if you cross into New Jersey with a Pennsylvania gun permit, you are still subject to New Jersey’s mandatory minimum sentencing under New Jersey’s Graves Act. For more information on New Jersey’s Graves Act and Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act read my article on these topics. Also remember that unlike Pennsylvania, a person must obtain a permit to even purchase or possess a handgun in the Garden State
- Drunk Driving
While most people consider a DUI/DWI to be only those cases involving alcohol, there are a substantial number of cases in Pennsylvania and New Jersey involving prescription and non-prescription drugs. In New Jersey, the prosecution isn’t required to produce an expert to testify as to a person’s drug impairment, while Pennsylvania does place this requirement on the prosecution. Further, Drunk or Drugged Driving is considered a traffic offense in New Jersey and is therefore handled within the State’s Municipal Court system. DUI is typically a misdemeanor offense in Pennsylvania but recently Pennsylvania amended its DUI statute and made a 3rd offense DUI a felony of the 3rd of the third degree
- Preliminary Hearings – New Jersey doesn’t have them
Pennsylvania, unlike New Jersey, employs the preliminary hearing system which is a proceeding before a lower court judge (Municipal Court in Philadelphia and District Court in the surrounding counties). New Jersey, however, uses the indictment system in which the prosecution presents the case to approximately 23 citizens to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. The evidentiary standard in New Jersey and Pennsylvania is very similar but it is important to keep in mind that in New Jersey the defense is not given the opportunity to cross examine witnesses before the grand jury. A preliminary hearing is a critical part of the criminal process in the Commonwealth and a person should only waive their right to a preliminary hearing under specific circumstances. For more information on preliminary hearings in Pennsylvania I encourage you to read my article and watch my video on this topic.
In closing, never assume the law is the same when you cross over the bridges. Our law firm is here ready to defend you or a friend faced with a challenge but hopefully, you won’t needed. Stay relentless!