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Legal Information: California

Restraining Orders

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Updated: 
June 16, 2021

What is a gun violence restraining order?

A gun violence restraining order is a civil court order that prohibits an individual (called the respondent) from having firearms or ammunition in his/her custody or control, or from purchasing or attempting to purchase or receive a firearm or ammunition.

What types of gun violence restraining orders are there? How long do they last?

There are three types of gun violence restraining orders: temporary emergency gun violence restraining orders (orders that may be filed by law enforcement only), ex parte gun violence restraining orders, and gun violence restraining orders issued after notice and a hearing.

Temporary Emergency Gun Violence Restraining Order – Law enforcement officers may ask a judge, orally or in writing, to issue a temporary emergency order any time of the day or night. The respondent does not need to be in the courtroom or have notice of the case for the judge to issue this emergency order. This type of order remains in effect for up to 21 days after it is issued.1

Ex Parte Gun Violence Restraining Order – Law enforcement officers, the respondent’s immediate family members, the respondent’s employer, a co-worker of the respondent, or an employee/teacher at the respondent’s secondary or post-secondary school can file a petition to request that the judge issue an ex parte gun violence restraining order.2 The respondent does not need to be in the courtroom or have notice of the case for the judge to issue an ex parte order. Ex parte orders last for up to 21 days.3

Gun Violence Restraining Order Issued after Notice and a Hearing – Before the temporary emergency order or the ex parte order expires, the court sets a date for a hearing at which the respondent has the opportunity to be present and object or consent to the order being issued.4 This final order may also be requested by the same category of people as may request the ex parte order: law enforcement officers, the respondent’s immediate family members, the respondent’s employer, a co-worker of the respondent, or an employee/teacher at the respondent’s secondary or post-secondary school.5 If the judge issues a gun violence restraining order after the respondent has notice and the opportunity to appear, the judge can issue the order to last for between one to five years.6

1 Cal. Penal Code § 18125(b)
2 Cal. Penal Code § 18150(a)(1)
3 Cal. Penal Code § 18165
4 Cal. Penal Code §§ 18148; 18165
5 Cal. Penal Code § 18170(a)
6 Cal. Penal Code § 18175(e)

Who can file for a gun violence restraining order?

You can file for an ex parte gun violence restraining order and/or a gun violence order issued after notice and a hearing if the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to himself/herself or another person by having in his/her custody or control, owning, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm or ammunition. To file for a gun violence restraining order, you must be the respondent’s immediate family member, the respondent’s employer, a co-worker of the respondent, an employee/teacher at the respondent’s secondary or post-secondary school, or a law enforcement officer.1 You are considered an immediate family member if you are the respondent’s:

  • spouse (including a common law spouse if established in a state that recognizes common law marriage);
  • domestic partner;
  • parent;
  • child;
  • second-degree relative (such as an uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, grandchild, etc.); or
  • household member who regularly lives, or within the last six months regularly lived, in the respondent’s household.2

Only a law enforcement officer may file for a temporary emergency gun violence restraining order.3 If you believe such an order is needed on an emergency basis, you may contact the police and request that an officer file for it even when the courts are closed.

1 Cal. Penal Code §§ 18150(a)(1); 18170(a)(1)
2 Cal. Penal Code § 422.4(b)(3)
3 Cal. Penal Code § 18125

What protections can I get in a gun violence restraining order?

A gun violence restraining order can require that the respondent:

  • not have a gun or ammunition;
  • not buy or attempt to buy a gun or ammunition; and
  • turn in any guns and ammunition to the police or sell them to (or store them with) a licensed gun dealer.1

1 Cal. Penal Code §§ 18100; 18125(b); 18150(a)(1); 18170(a)(1); Petition for Firearms Restraining Order