Extreme Risk Protection Order (Red Flag Law)

An Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) is a civil order issued by a court when someone is at risk of violence to self (including suicide) or others.  A person with an ERPO cannot purchase, own, or possess guns while the order is in place.

State laws often do not provide a clear legal authority to restrict access to guns before a tragedy occurs, even when it is clear that an individual is at risk of suicide, or harm to self or others. ERPO laws provide a legal means, using a civil process, to prevent potential tragedies.

  1. Filing an ERPO FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions for Filing an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO)

Who files an ERPO?

Depending on state law, ERPO petitions may be filed by:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Dating partners
  • Family, including someone related by blood, marriage, or adoption.
  • Health care professional
  • Law enforcement
  • Legal guardian
  • People who are living together
  • People who have a child in common
  • School administrator

*If you are afraid to ask the court, you should talk to your local police.

What is an ERPO?

An ERPO is a civil order issued by a court when someone is at risk of violence to self (including suicide) or others.  A person with an ERPO cannot purchase or possess guns while the order is in place.

Will the ERPO protect me personally?

No, this order is just about temporarily removing access to firearms.  If you need personal protection, you will need a separate protection order.

How long does an ERPO last?

A temporary order will last until the court hearing date (within 14 days of filing).  A more permanent order can then be issued that lasts for one year and may be renewed.

What forms do I need?

You can find the petition form at www.courts.wa.gov/forms or go to your local Superior Court Clerk’s office and they will give you forms.

Where do I go to get an ERPO?

You must file a petition where either you or the person you are worried about lives.  Take the filled-out forms to the Superior Court clerk’s office.  The clerk will give you a hearing date and time.  If you want a temporary order, the hearing will likely be the same day that you file.

Will I have to pay a filing fee?

No, their is no cost for an order.

How will the person know about the hearing or temporary ERPO?

A police officer will "serve" (give) the person a copy of the order and the petition which includes the date, time, and place of the hearing.

What do I have to prove in court?

If you are asking for a temporary ERPO you will have to provide evidence the person poses a significant danger in the near future of hurting themselves, or another person by having a firearm by a preponderance of the evidence.  At the hearing for the year-long ERPO, you will have to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the person poses a significant danger of hurting themselves, or others, by having a firearm or having access to their firearms.

How can I convince the court?

The court needs specific information, such as whether the respondent owns, has tried to purchase, or may have access to, firearms.  Include in your petition why you believe the person is dangerous to themselves or others.  Have there been any recent acts or threats of violence in the last 12 months?  Have they violated any kind of protection order?  Have the police been called?  Has the person been arrested or convicted of a crime?  Is there a history of violence?  A history of stalking?  Has the person been identified by a mental health provider as a danger?  You can also include in your any signed, sworn statements from any other people who have direct knowledge about the person’s history and actions.

How soon can I get an ERPO?

You can ask for a temporary ERPO which will be effective immediately, if you don’t, then a hearing will be held no later than 14 days after you file.

Do I have to go to court?

Yes.  You must go to court on the date the clerk gives you.  A court may schedule a hearing by telephone when it is necessary to accommodate a disability or "in exceptional circumstances" to protect a petitioner from potential harm.

Do I need to bring a witness to the hearing?

No, but if you think it will help convince the court, consider bringing witnesses, or witness statements made under oath, photos or videos, medical or police reports, damaged property, threatening letters, emails, texts, or telephone messages.  The court may or may not let witnesses speak at the hearing.  So, if possible, you should bring their written sworn statements to the hearing.

Do I need a lawyer?

It is not required.  You can ask the court clerk about free and low-cost legal services in your county.

Will I see the restrained person at the court hearing?

Yes, if the respondent comes to the hearing.  If you are afraid, let court staff know.

**Information taken from www.protectionorder.org and https://americanhealth.jhu.edu/implementERPO 

  1. What to do if you have been served with an ERPO and FAQs

I’ve been served with a Petition for an Extreme Risk Protection Order. What do I do now?

Read the papers served on you carefully. The document titled Temporary Extreme Protection Order – Without Notice or Extreme Risk Protection Order tells you when to appear in court. If you were served with a Temporary Extreme Protection Order – Without Notice, then you are prohibited from having any firearm and you must surrender any firearm you currently own or possess to the law enforcement agency that served you with the Petition and Order. You MUST obey the order until the hearing. 

What if I don’t obey the order?

Disobeying the order can result in being subject to both criminal and civil penalties. 

What if I don’t agree with what the order says?

If you disagree with the order that the petitioner is asking for, then you must come to the hearing and explain why you disagree with what the petitioner is requesting. You can read the Extreme Risk Protection Order statute (RCW Chapter 7.94 – Extreme Risk Protection Order Act). 

Should I go to the court hearing?

If you do not go to the hearing, the judge can extend the order against you for up to one year without hearing from you. 

Will I see the person who asked for the order at the court hearing?

Assume that the person who is asking for the order will attend the hearing. 

May I bring a witness to the court hearing?

You may bring witnesses or documents that support your case to the hearing. 

Do I need a lawyer?

It is not required, and you are not entitled to a free court-appointed attorney. You can ask the court clerk about free and low-cost legal services. 

How long does the order last?

If the court issued a temporary Extreme Risk Protection Order before the hearing, it will last until your hearing date. At that time, the court will decide whether to issue an order that can last for one year. 

Can I agree with the protected person to end or change the order?

No. Once the order is issued, only the judge can change or terminate it. You would have to file a request with the court to terminate the order. 

What if I need help to understand English?

At least one week prior to your hearing date, contact the court clerk and ask the court to provide an interpreter, which will be provided for you at no cost. If an interpreter is not available for your court date, you should ask someone who is over age 18 to interpret for you. 

What if I am deaf or hard of hearing?

Assistive listening systems, computer- assisted real-time captioning, or sign language interpreter services are available if you ask at least five court days before the hearing. Contact the clerk’s office.

**Information taken from www.protectionorder.org 

  1. How to turn in your firearms and FAQs

What is a firearm? 

RCW 9.41.010(11)  "Firearm" means a weapon or device from which a projectile or projectiles may be fired by an explosive such as gunpowder. "Firearm" does not include a flare gun or other pyrotechnic visual distress signaling device, or a powder-actuated tool or other device designed solely to be used for construction purposes. 

If you own or possess any firearms, or a concealed pistol license:

  • You must give them to the law enforcement officer when he or she serves you with the court order requiring surrender.
  • If you do not have all of your firearms and your concealed pistol license with you to give them to the law enforcement officer when you are served with the court order, then you must give them to the law enforcement agency within 48 hours of the hearing when the order was issued. Call the agency to schedule a time and place for you to bring the weapons to an officer.

How long will the law enforcement agency keep them?

As long as any Extreme Risk Protection Order against you remains in effect.

Do I have to pay the law enforcement agency to keep my firearm?

No.

Do I have to prove that I have turned in my firearms and/or concealed pistol license?

The law enforcement agency that is storing your firearm and/or concealed pistol license will give you a receipt and the agency will file that receipt with the court.

Questions?

Please contact either Port Townsend Police Department at 360-385-2322 or the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office at 360-385-3831.