Domestic violence victims in our state have a new Red Flag law that should, in theory, make them safer. Essentially, the new law allows law enforcement to seize the guns and ammo of a person that is a danger to themselves or others through a Risk Protection Order. For Florida domestic violence victims, this offers a path that they can have their abuser’s guns and ammo taken to give them one less option of retaliation and abuse.
Can domestic violence victims apply?
No. Victims, by themselves, cannot petition for a Risk Protection Order under Florida Statute, Section 790.401. However, with the help of their attorney, they can file for a protective order against their abuser after reporting their abuse to the police. If they have a fear of their abuser using guns against them in retaliation or because of prior abuse where they used the weapons, make sure that is part of the report. Specifically, ask that the police department file a Risk Protection Order.
What is the next step?
First, a police officer will need to file the Risk Protection Order with the Clerk of Court, who then forwards it to the Domestic Violence Division for a judge assignment. Hearings are held during business hours on business days, with the cut-off on Thursday at 2:00 p.m.
The ex parte hearing
The hearing, called an ex parte hearing, is generally done telephonically, but the judge can request an in-person hearing. This hearing is between the law enforcement officer and the judge and does not include the victim or the abuser. If granted, the judge issues a temporary order, which is then sent to the sheriff’s office to enforce.
The temporary order includes a full list of the firearms and ammunition that the abuser currently owns. The sheriff’s department is then empowered to seize those items within 72 hours. The order can be used as the basis of a warrant, should there be any issue with the confiscation. If the abuser complies, no additional compliance hearing is needed. If they refuse to comply, a compliance hearing will be set.