Steffon Josey-Davis, an armored-car driver, is now a convicted felon due to the legally owned firearm he uses for his job.
Josey-Davis was unloading his gun in his car when his 6-year-old sister wandered into the garage, a bit startled, Josey-Davis tucked his gun inside the glove box so the child wouldn't see it, according to Steffon's account.
Unfortunately, he apparently forgot about the gun and was pulled over later that day with an expired tag. After he was asked for his license and proof of insurance he realized his mistake:
“I reached for the glove compartment – that's when I realized,” Josey-Davis stated.
Steffon informed the two officers about the gun and turned it over to them. The cops called their superior to the scene. They ended up confiscating the gun and issued a summons for having an expired registration and even told Steffon that he could pick up his firearm the following Monday, so he drove home.
Josey-Davis says he did as he was told, bringing with him his work credentials and receipts for the firearm. What happened next stunned him.
“They handcuffed me and charged me with unlawful possession of a firearm — a second-degree felony,” he told FoxNews.com.
“I almost fainted. My life was ruined — all my hard work went down the drain,” said Josey-Davis, who had no criminal background and had passed rigorous security background checks for his job.
Josey-Davis had purchased the gun a month prior to his arrest at Meltzer's Sporting Goods in Garfield, N.J. While he legally owned the firearm, he had not yet secured a permit to carry it — giving authorities just cause under state law to arrest him. Josey-Davis claims the pending permit was due to be approved the week he was arrested.
“This is a case of a law-abiding citizen being turned into a criminal by New Jersey gun laws.”
– Gun rights attorney Evan Nappen
Last month, Josey-Davis ended up taking a deal for a year of probation from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office to avoid a sentence that could have carried up to 10 years in state prison. He pleaded guilty to second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon. As part of the deal, the prosecutor waived New Jersey's “Graves Act” and Josey-Davis is serving the probation.
But his attorney is now challenging that criminal record.
Nappen claims that between August 2013 and February 2014, the state had a firearm amnesty in effect, meaning individuals in similar situations were exempt from such charges.
“During that time there was amnesty and he should not have even been charged,” claimed Nappen, who said the law during those months allowed for people to retain possession of a firearm “legally or illegally acquired.”
“For whatever reason, this law didn't seem to be well known. The state police did a poor job at publicizing it,” he said. “I think it's particularly striking that that wasn't raised.”
Nappen roundly criticized New Jersey gun laws for being “badly written.”
“New Jersey's gun control laws are out of control,” he said. “It's clearly evident they need serious reform. The legislature is really ultimately to blame.”
The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, however, vehemently refuted Nappen's claim, saying, “There was no gun amnesty program that would apply under these circumstances.”
In a statement to FoxNews.com, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey said Josey-Davis was stopped by police for driving a vehicle with an expired registration. He said that during the stop, Josey-Davis “gave four significantly different versions of the circumstances surrounding his illegal possession of the handgun.
“Additionally, he said he worked for an armored car company, but he did not possess a license to carry the weapon, which was seized as evidence,” Carey said.
Carey said he was charged with “having a handgun in the glove compartment of his vehicle” – and that the law stipulates drivers can only transport a gun, unloaded, in the trunk. (Josey-Davis' attorney, though, clarified that his client was specifically charged over the permit issue.)
“Describing his conduct as a simple mistake does not negate the seriousness of this law, which was created to protect police officers and the public,” Carey continued. “Illegal gun possession is a second-degree offense, punishable by a prison term of multiple years. This defendant agreed to plead guilty and was placed on probation for one year.”
New Jersey gun control advocates claim the law is well-intended and should not be changed in response to exceptional cases such as that of Josey-Davis.
“We think the law needs to take into consideration individual circumstances, but it's still a law that's for the well being of the people of New Jersey,” said Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of the Princeton-based group, Coalition for Peace Action, which oversees the gun control project known as “Ceasefire NJ.”
“It sounds like these officers were doing their job,” Moore told FoxNews.com. “It's up to the courts to decide some kind of leniency given the circumstances.”
He added: “We would be against changing the law because of these exceptional circumstances. … That’s one reason you go before a judge. The law itself should not be changed.”
A Christie spokesman confirmed to FoxNews.com the governor has received an application from Josey-Davis for a pardon but said he was unable to comment further.
Check out the petition requesting Gov. Christie to pardon Josey-Davis HERE.