IN THE MATTER OF THE DENIAL OF THE APPLICATION BY GEORGE WINSTON, JR., FOR A FIREARMS PURCHASER IDENTIFICATION CARD
Submitted January 29, 2014.
Approved for Publication October 31, 2014.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Municipal Appeal No. 11-061.
Evan F. Nappen, attorney for appellant George Winston, Jr. ( Richard V. Gilbert, on the brief).
Camelia M. Valdes, Passaic County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent State of New Jersey ( Robert J. Wisse, Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges GRALL, WAUGH and ACCURSO. The opinion of the court was delivered by ACCURSO, J.A.D.
[438 N.J.Super. 3] ACCURSO, J.A.D.
The question presented by this appeal is whether the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution requires New Jersey to treat appellant George Winston's New York criminal convictions, for which he has obtained certificates of relief from disabilities, as not disqualifying him from obtaining a firearms purchaser identification card or a permit to purchase a handgun under N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c)(1). Because we conclude that the Constitution does not compel that result, we affirm the denial of those firearms permits to Winston.
Winston was convicted in New York in 1974 of attempted assault in the second degree, an offense carrying a penalty of up to four years' imprisonment. N.Y. Penal Law § § 120.05; 110.05; 70.00 (McKinney 2008). He was convicted in 1989 of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, a class A misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of one year's imprisonment. N.Y. Penal Law § § 220.03; 70.15 (McKinney 2008). In 2011, he obtained certificates of relief for both convictions from courts in New York. Each certificate bears the following legend:
This certificate is issued to the holder to grant relief from all or certain enumerated disabilities, forfeitures, or bars to his employment automatically imposed by law by reason of his conviction of the crime or of the offense specified herein.
This certificate shall NOT be deemed nor construed to be a pardon.
Each certificate further provides that it " relieve[s] the holder of all disabilities and bars to employment, excluding the right to be eligible for public office." Each also notes that the " certificate shall be considered permanent."
After obtaining the certificates, Winston submitted an application to the Chief of Police in Clifton for a firearms purchaser identification card and a handgun purchase permit. In response [438 N.J.Super. 4] to questions nineteen and twenty on the application form, which ask whether one has ever been convicted in New Jersey or elsewhere of any crime or misdemeanor " that has not been expunged or sealed," Winston disclosed his New York convictions and his attendant certificates of relief. Following ...