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In re Return of J.M.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

May 28, 2013

IN THE MATTER OF THE RETURN OF J.M., SR.'S FIREARMS.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued April 16, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery and Law Divisions, Passaic County, Docket Nos. FV-16-117-12 and FO-16-245-12.

Frank Pisano, III, argued the cause for appellant J.M., Sr. (Needleman and Pisano, attorneys; Mr. Pisano, on the brief).

Christopher W. Hsieh, Chief Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for respondent State of New Jersey (Camelia M. Valdes, Passaic County Prosecutor, attorney; Mr. Hsieh, of counsel and on the brief).

Before Judges Fisher and Waugh.

PER CURIAM

Petitioner appeals the March 22, 2012 order forfeiting three firearms (handguns) and his New Jersey Firearms Purchaser Identification Card (Firearms Card). We affirm.

I.

We discern the following facts and procedural history from the record on appeal.

The handguns and Firearms Card were taken from petitioner's residence in the City of Passaic as the result of a domestic violence incident on October 22, 2011. Passaic police officers went to petitioner's home in response to a report that there was an assault in progress. They found petitioner's two adult sons, V.M. and J.M., in front of the house. V.M. informed the officers that he and his father had engaged in an argument initiated by petitioner, who objected to V.M. storing things on top of the refrigerator. According to V.M., petitioner pulled his arm, punched him, and threatened to shoot him. Because he believed his father was going to punch him again, V.M. grabbed a metal pipe and struck petitioner several times. V.M. told the officers that he "lost it." V.M. later told the police that petitioner also hit him with a crutch at the start of the incident and that he had attempted to spray his father with pepper spray.

J.M. told the officers that, after he heard a commotion, he entered the house and saw V.M. punching his father. The officers entered the house and found petitioner "profusely" bleeding. Petitioner told them that V.M. assaulted him with a metal pipe, but he was somewhat disoriented and unable to give further details. He was taken to a hospital.

J.M. turned several weapons over to the police officers, including the three handguns belonging to his father. Two of the three handguns were found to be registered to petitioner. Petitioner explained later that the third handgun had been left to him by a deceased friend. See N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(j). The State subsequently applied for the forfeiture of the handguns and petitioner's Firearms Card pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c)(5) and -3(f).

The forfeiture hearing was held on March 22, 2012. One of the investigating officers testified to the events at the scene of the incident and the officers' conversations with the participants.[1] Petitioner testified about the handguns and about the altercation with V.M. He described V.M. as the aggressor and denied having "laid a hand" on him. The judge delivered an oral decision in which he granted ...


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