IN RE: THE DENIAL OF AN APPLICATION OF ANDREW VAN JURA FOR A FIREARMS PURCHASER IDENTIFICATION CARD AND PERMIT TO PURCHASE A HANDGUN.

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Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.

IN RE: THE DENIAL OF AN APPLICATION OF ANDREW VAN JURA FOR A FIREARMS PURCHASER IDENTIFICATION CARD AND PERMIT TO PURCHASE A HANDGUN.

DOCKET NO. A–2624–12T3

Decided: March 14, 2014

Before Judges Messano and Hayden. Needleman and Pisano, attorneys for appellant Andrew Van Jura (Frank Pisano, III, on the brief). Anthony P. Kearns, III, Hunterdon County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent State of New Jersey (Jeffrey L. Weinstein, Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).

Andrew Van Jura appeals from the January 3, 2013 Law Division order denying his application for a firearms purchaser identification card (FPIC) and two handgun purchase permits.   As the trial judge reached his decision without conducting an evidentiary hearing, we are constrained to reverse and remand.

On June 25, 2011, Van Jura submitted his application for an FPIC and two purchase permits to the State Police.   On February 7, 2012, the Superintendent of the State Police denied Van Jura's application.   The denial stated that Van Jura was “not a person of good character,” and that it was “not in the interest of the public health, safety or welfare of the citizens of the State of New Jersey to issue” him an FPIC or purchase permits.   Underlying this determination, the denial cited “numerous domestic violence incidents and several neighbor disputes” in which Van Jura was allegedly involved.

On September 12, 2012, Van Jura filed a request for a hearing with the Superior Court,1 which included two exhibits.   The State filed its opposition to Van Jura's appeal, which included extensive exhibits.   On December 19, 2012, the trial judge heard oral argument without taking testimony or admitting any exhibits in evidence.   On January 3, 2013, the trial judge, after having reviewed the parties' submissions, issued a written opinion denying Van Jura's appeal.   This appeal followed.

On appeal, Van Jura argues that, because there is a factual dispute about the conclusions of the Superintendent, the trial judge erred by failing to conduct an evidentiary hearing, and by improperly relying solely on hearsay evidence.   The State concurs that this case must be remanded for an evidentiary hearing.

We agree that the court erred in failing to conduct an evidentiary hearing.   In an appeal of a State Police denial of an FPIC or a weapon permit, the reviewing court must conduct a de novo hearing, which “ ‘contemplates introduction of relevant and material testimony and the application of an independent judgment to the testimony by the reviewing court.’ ”  In re Dubov, 410 N.J.Super. 190, 200 (App.Div.2009) (quoting Weston v. State, 60 N.J. 36, 45 (1972)), certif. denied, 213 N.J. 45 (2013);  see also N.J.S.A. 2C:58–3(d).

As we are reversing and remanding for a hearing, we decline to address Van Jura's remaining argument.

Reversed and remanded.

FOOTNOTES

1.  FN1. “Any person aggrieved by the denial of a permit or identification card may request a hearing in the Superior Court of the county in which he resides if he is a resident of New Jersey․”  N.J.S.A. 2C:58–3(d).

PER CURIAM

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