IN THE MATTER OF THE SEIZURE OF WEAPONS BELONGING TO D.P.P.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued April 23, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FO-02-403-09.
Jay R. Atkins argued the cause for appellant D.P.P. (Sunshine, Atkins, Minassian, Tafuri, D'Amato, Beane & Buckner, attorneys; Mr. Atkins and Joshua T. Buckner, on the brief.
David A. Malfitano, Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for respondent State of New Jersey (John L. Molinelli, Bergen County Prosecutor, attorney; Mr. Malfitano, Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Reisner, Hayden and Hoffman.
Defendant D.P.P. appeals from a December 9, 2011 order entered by the Family Part, granting the State's motion to forfeit his seized weapons and to revoke his firearms permits and licenses, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-21(d)(3). He contends that the trial judge erred in permitting the State to retain an expert witness after the trial had commenced, and that the trial judge's factual findings were against the weight of the evidence. We disagree and affirm, substantially for the reasons stated by Judge Lisa A. Firko, in her comprehensive oral opinion issued December 9, 2011.
To put the evidence in context, we begin with a discussion of the pertinent statutory provisions. The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PVDA), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to –35, authorizes the police to seize weapons while responding to a domestic violence complaint:
d. (1) In addition to a law enforcement officer's authority to seize any weapon that is contraband, evidence or an instrumentality of crime, a law enforcement officer who has probable cause to believe that an act of domestic violence has been committed shall:
(a) question persons present to determine whether there are weapons on the premises; and
(b)upon observing or learning that a weapon is present on the premises, seize any weapon that the officer reasonably believes would expose the victim to a risk of serious bodily injury. If a law enforcement officer seizes any firearm pursuant to this paragraph, the officer shall also seize any firearm purchaser identification card or ...