You may have heard that law enforcement can take your firearms if you’re deemed a risk to the community. And while this may sound like hyperbole, it’s actually true. However, you do have rights, and even if you’re placed under a risk protection order, you are able to appeal the order to regain access to your firearms.
Here’s what you need to know about risk protection orders in Florida and what to do if you’re placed under one.
What Are Risk Protection Orders?
A risk protection order is a court order that requires an individual to hand over any firearms and ammunition that they have in their possession (regardless of whether it’s theirs or not), as well as their license to carry. Individuals under a risk protection order are banned from purchasing new guns or ammunition and don’t have access to their firearms for a set period of time, usually up to a year.
After the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida’s state legislature passed FL Statute 790.401. While the goal of the bill was to reduce the chances that a mass shooting like Parkland’s could happen again in the state, it also allows law enforcement officers to confiscate firearms and ammunition from individuals whom a court has deemed as dangerous.
Thankfully, though, officers can’t just bust down your doors and take your firearms.
Rather, the act makes it easy for individuals to call in their suspicions about people who they think are dangerous—even though this itself could be dangerous. This ability can be abused by angry exes, spouses in a divorce, and vindictive people to make someone’s life difficult.
Once a report has been made, though, law enforcement must investigate the claims. If they feel that the claim is warranted and that the person they’re investigating does pose a risk to themselves or the community, they can petition the court for a risk protection order.
Once that risk protection order is granted, law enforcement officers may confiscate firearms and ammunition.
Who Can Be Placed on One?
For someone to be placed on a risk protection order, a law enforcement officer and a judge must believe that they pose a risk to themselves or their community and that there’s a legitimate chance that you will do harm to yourself or to others.
To determine this, law enforcement will investigate whether there is credible evidence that illustrates a dangerous pattern of behavior. They may interview people you have had contact with, like relatives, coworkers, and friends, and they may use any prior legal incidents against you. There is also a concern that an individual’s mental health will be used against them. The investigation alone can jeopardize one’s standing in the community and endanger an individual’s employment.
If law enforcement feels they have gathered evidence that proves that you present a risk, they will then petition a judge to provide the risk protection order.
There are no exceptions to this order. Anyone that is deemed a danger to others can be placed under a risk protection order, regardless of whether they’re a teacher, a soldier, an officer, or a preacher.
What Happens if You’re Placed Under a Risk Protection Order?
If law enforcement believes that you pose a credible threat and a judge places you under a risk protection order, your firearms, ammunition, and license to carry a concealed weapon (if you have one) will be confiscated for a set period of time, generally up to one year.
Once the order is placed, you may file a written request to vacate the order.
How Can You Fight a Risk Protection Order?
When law enforcement makes their case to a judge for a risk protection order, they must show that the respondent (the individual being placed under the risk protection order) poses a credible risk.
The way to fight against such an order, then, is to show that the respondent does not pose a risk to themselves or the community.
After an order is enacted, respondents have the right to appeal it and show that they don’t present a risk. For this to meet the legal standard of evidence, it’s crucial to have a skilled risk protection order attorney on your side. During the appeal, the burden of proof falls entirely on the respondent.
Your risk protection order lawyer will help create a legal case that pokes holes in law enforcements’ assessment to show that you have been erroneously placed under a risk protection order. This can be accomplished in different ways and will depend on the intricacies of your case.
For example, we may showcase your ties to the community and the various ways that you help out. Alternatively, we may seek to prove that certain benign actions or behaviors were taken out of context to make them seem like they were dangerous when they were objectively normal.
Does a Risk Protection Order Violate My 2nd Amendment Rights?
The right to bear arms is a cherished one in Florida. As one of the first states to enact a Stand Your Ground law, it may come as a surprise that the same state allows for risk protection orders. While the legality of such orders will undoubtedly be challenged, right now, they are the law. Individuals placed under a risk protection order should follow the appropriate channels to appeal the order and refrain from attempting to purchase additional firearms. If you’re concerned about your rights, be sure to consult with a Tampa lawyer who’s committed to protecting them.
Under an RPO? Contact Mike G Law
Whether you’re facing a new order or need help appealing a risk protection order, Mike G can help.
As a former prosecutor, I understand prosecutorial overreach and know how to fight against the system to help protect your rights. There is a certain level of subjectivity when it comes to enacting a risk protection order. I will help you challenge the findings, so you have the best chance of legally challenging a risk protection order and regaining your freedoms.