What is a risk protection order?
A risk protection order can be issued by a judge to prohibit a person from having or buying firearms or other deadly weapons or ammunition. As part of the risk protection order, the judge will issue a warrant for the police to enter into the individual’s home or any other place and take (seize) all firearms, deadly weapons, and ammunition.
The law says that a state’s attorney, an assistant state’s attorney, or two police officers can request the order when they have probable cause to believe that:
- a person poses a risk of immediate personal injury to himself, herself, or another person; and
- the person has one or more firearms or other deadly weapons.1
For information on how you can ask law enforcement to file for a risk protection order, see What can I do to convince the judge that a risk protection order is needed?
1 C.G.S. § 29-38c(a)
How will a judge decide whether to issue a risk protection order?
When a judge is deciding whether to issue a risk protection order and a warrant to remove a person’s firearms, the judge must consider the person’s:
- recent threats or acts of violence towards himself/herself or other people; and
- recent acts of cruelty to animals.1
When deciding if these recent threats or acts of violence provide probable cause to believe that the person poses a risk of imminent personal injury to himself or herself or to others, the judge can consider the person’s:
- reckless (irresponsible) use, display, or flaunting of a firearm or other deadly weapon;
- history of use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against other people;
- prior involuntary commitment in a hospital for people with psychiatric disabilities; and
- illegal use of drugs or abuse of alcohol.1
1 C.G.S. § 29-38c(c)
What can I do to convince the judge that a risk protection order is needed?
Only a state’s attorney, an assistant state’s attorney, or two law enforcement officers can file the actual petition for a risk protection order.1 However, you may be able to file in court to request that law enforcement starts an investigation into whether a risk protection order is needed. The law says that any family or household member or medical professional who has a good faith belief that a person poses a risk of immediate (imminent) personal injury to himself/herself or to another person can make an application for a “risk protection order investigation” with the clerk of the court.2 A “family or household member” is defined as someone eighteen years or older who:
- is related to the respondent in any of the following ways:
- son/daughter-in-law; or
- lives with the respondent;
- has a child in common with the respondent;
- is a dating/intimate partner of the respondent; or
- is the current or former legal guardian of the respondent.3
If the judge believes the application was made in good faith, the judge will order law enforcement to do a risk protection order investigation to determine if the person does indeed pose a risk of imminent personal injury. If the law enforcement agency determines that there is probable cause to believe this risk exists, they must apply for a risk protection order as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours after receiving the order from the judge to do a risk protection investigation.4
1 C.G.S. § 29-38c(a)
2 C.G.S. § 29-38c(b)(1)
3 C.G.S. § 29-38c(j)
4 C.G.S. § 29-38c(b)(2), (b)(3)
How long can a risk protection order last?
Within 14 days after the service of a risk protection order and execution of a warrant to take (seize) firearms, the judge must hold a hearing to decide whether the risk protection order should continue or not. If the judge determines at that hearing that the respondent poses an immediate risk of personal injury to himself/herself or to another person, the risk protection order will continue and law enforcement will continue to keep possession of the firearms or other deadly weapons seized until the judge terminates the order.1
After 180 days from the first hearing, the respondent can file a petition to ask the judge to end (terminate) the order and the judge will schedule a hearing in 28 days. During those 28 days, law enforcement must determine whether they believe there is probable cause that the person poses a risk of imminent personal injury to himself/herself or to another person. If the law enforcement agency finds no probable cause, the agency must notify the court and then the hearing will be canceled, the order will end, and the firearms will be returned. If law enforcement does find probable cause, the hearing will take place as scheduled. For the order and warrant to remain in effect, the judge must determine at the hearing that there is ”clear and convincing evidence” that the person poses a risk of imminent personal injury to himself/herself or to another person. There will be no specific end date for the risk protection order. The only way for the order to terminate is for the person to re-file a petition to terminate the order and a new hearing would be scheduled with another probable cause investigation. The person has to wait at least 180 days from the prior hearing to file a new petition to terminate the order.2
1 C.G.S. § 29-38c(e)
2 C.G.S. § 29-38c(f)