Risk Protection Orders, also known as red flag laws, allow law enforcement to temporarily take guns and firearms from a person if there is a belief that person is a threat to himself or others. With mass shootings dominating headlines, gun control activists and politicians have taken an opportunity to push for new legislation to curb gun violence. Some attempts at reducing gun control, such as assault rifle bans, have been unsuccessful across the country but red flag laws are now becoming popular in several states including Florida.
If you have had a risk protection order imposed on you, you are having your First Amendment Right infringed upon. You could be denied the right to your own firearms for a long time. Your right to hunt, shoot for sport, or even protect yourself will seriously be abridged. You will need an experienced team of defense attorneys to restore your rights.
The team of Meltzer & Bell, P.A. are composed of veteran attorneys and former prosecutors that are always willing to do whatever it takes to defend your rights. Going to court is a harrowing experience and dealing with the legal process is complicated and confusing. If you want experienced lawyers who care about the rights of their clients, call (561) 557-8686 to make an appointment to see us today.
Meltzer & Bell, P.A. represents clients in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Wellington, Lake Worth, Greenacres, Boynton Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Belle Glade, Jupiter, Royal Palm Beach, Juno Beach and the surrounding areas of Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties. We are ready to help you today.
Red flag laws were created to stop mass shootings before they happen by taking guns away from people who seem to be a threat. The effect of the laws, however, can be too broad and can severely curtail the rights of law abiding citizens. In fact, even if you have not broken a single law, you could still have your guns taken away under Florida’s risk protection order law.
The beginning of the process is quite simple. The only person that can file a risk protection order against a person is a law enforcement officer or law enforcement agency. A family member, friend, neighbor, or stranger cannot file a risk protection order against you but they can contact law enforcement to ask that a risk protection order is filed against you. Law enforcement then must file a Petition for Risk Protection Order. The petition is a two page affidavit that must be signed by a law enforcement official and contain a short statement about the reason for filing the petition as well as a list of the firearms and ammunition the person the petition is being filed against is believed to have.
There must be an allegation that the person the petition is filed against, the respondent:
“poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to himself or herself or others by having a firearm or any ammunition in his or her custody or control or by purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm or any ammunition”
The petition must also have an attachment that states specific facts, acts, or statements that give rise to a reasonable fear that the respondent poses a significant danger if they have firearms. A judge will then hold a hearing to determine if a person should have a risk protection order imposed and their guns taken away.
The process moves pretty quickly once a petition is filed against them. A hearing must be held within 30 days and in the meantime a temporary risk protection order can be issued. If you are accused of a crime, it must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offense before a court can take your liberty. To take a person’s guns, the court will only need to hear clear and convincing evidence, a lower standard that means that the evidence only needs to show that it is highly and substantially more probable to be true than not that the person is likely to harm others or himself or herself.
The court may consider any relevant evidence including but not limited to:
If the court finds that the respondent is a serious danger, a protection order must be issued that can last up to one year but can also be extended. The protection order prevents a person from possessing, buying, have under control, receive, or attempt to purchase or receive, a firearm or ammunition. Violation of the order becomes a possible third degree felony.
The respondent will be ordered to surrender all firearms and ammunition owned, possessed, or controlled. Any licenses to carry or use a firearm must also be surrendered. If the officer serving the risk protection order on the respondent has probable cause to believe there are other firearms that might be hidden, then the officer can get a search warrant.
Even if a risk protection order is imposed, a person still has the right to request another hearing to have the order removed, albeit they only have one chance to do so. In a hearing to have a risk protection order removed, the respondent now has the burden of proving that they no longer pose a significant danger. If the respondent proves their case, the court must vacate the order and notify law enforcement that they must return any firearms, ammunition, and licenses confiscated. Family members will also be informed that the weapons are being returned.
Risk Protection Order Procedures | Eleventh Judicial Circuit – Palm Beach County and Broward County are in the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Judicial Circuits of Florida respectively but the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, which includes Miami-Dade County, has a well layed out page of the rules, forms, and procedures required to file a risk protection order and to ask for a risk protection order be dismissed. The information on this page may not apply directly to your county but it is a valuable resource nonetheless especially considering that many circuit websites do not provide any information at all about risk protection orders.
Risk Protection Order Statute | Florida Statutes – Following the link will take you directly to the text of the risk order protection law itself. While the information above gives a summary of the major points, there are other things discussed in the statute itself such as what happens if someone lies under oath during a risk protection order hearing or what happens if a person subject to a risk protection order has someone else’s guns.
If you have been subject to a risk protection order or have been given notice for a risk protection order hearing, your First Amendment rights are at serious risk. Even if you have done nothing wrong, the state can take your guns away from you. Do not risk losing your sport, hunting, and self-defense weapons by trying to battle the justice system yourself.
The attorneys of Meltzer & Bell, P.A. are experience litigators who do whatever they can to protect the individual rights of their clients. We represent clients in Broward and Palm Beach County, including the cities of Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, and Wellington. Contact us today at (561) 557-8686.