WomensLaw is not just for women. We serve and support all survivors, no matter their sex or gender.

Important: Even if courts are closed, you can still file for a protection order and other emergency relief. See our FAQ on Courts and COVID-19.

Legal Information: Virginia

Restraining Orders

View all
Updated: 
December 13, 2020

What is a substantial risk order?

A substantial risk order is a civil court order prohibiting an individual (called the respondent) from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm while the order is in effect.1

1 VA Code § 19.2-152.14(A)

Who can file for a substantial risk order?

A law enforcement agency or an attorney for the state can file for an extreme risk protection order if the respondent poses a significant risk of causing personal injury to himself/herself or another person by having or getting a firearm.1

If you are a person who is concerned about the safety of someone else but cannot file to have his/her firearms removed, you may be able to speak to a law enforcement officer or agency to let them know of your concern and ask that they file for an extreme risk protection order to have the firearms removed.

1 VA Code § 19.2-152.13(A)

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

There are two types of substantial risk orders: emergency substantial risk orders and final substantial risk orders.

Emergency substantial risk orders – A judge or a magistrate can issue an emergency substantial risk order if s/he finds that the respondent poses a significant risk of causing personal injury to himself/herself or another person by having or getting a firearm. Emergency substantial risk orders are issued ex parte, which means the respondent does not have notice of the case or appear at the hearing. The emergency order lasts until the hearing for the final order, which must be scheduled within 14 days.1

Final substantial risk orders – A final substantial risk order can be issued after the respondent has received notice and had the opportunity to participate in a hearing. A final substantial risk order can be issued for up to 180 days.2

1 VA Code §§ 19.2-152.13(A), 19.2-152.14(A)
2 VA Code § 19.2-152.14(A), (C)

What protections can I get in a substantial risk order?

In an emergency substantial risk order, the judge can order that the respondent not do any of the following with a firearm:

  • purchase
  • possess; or
  • transport.1

The order will also state that the respondent must give up any concealed handgun permit if s/he has one and give up any firearms in his/her custody to the law-enforcement agency that serves the order.1

If the judge orders a final substantial risk order, the judge will order that any firearms that the respondent gave up when the emergency substantial risk order was issued must continue to be held by the agency that has the firearms. If there was no emergency substantial risk order issued, the judge can still order the respondent to not purchase, possess, or transport a firearm if the judge issues a final order. The judge will also inform the respondent that a law-enforcement officer can get a search warrant to search for firearms if the officer has a reason to believe that the respondent has not given up all firearms in his/her possession.2

1 VA Code § 19.2-152.13(A)
2 VA Code § 19.2-152.14(B)