Risk Protection Orders in Florida (RPOs)
Under § 790.401, Florida Statutes, the Florida Legislature created an action known as a petition for a risk protection order (RPO), which can be filed by law enforcement, alleging that an individual poses a significant danger of causing injury to himself or herself or to others if the individual were to have possession or access to firearms. The petition begins an RPO process in the courts in which a hearing may be held to determine whether the individual will be required to surrender his or her firearms to law enforcement. A temporary ex-parte risk protection order can be issued prior to the hearing allowing for law enforcement to confiscate the firearms pending the court’s decision on whether to grant a final risk protection order.
More information about risk protection orders in Florida, the court process, and what you can do to fight a risk protection order can be found below.
Risk Protection Order Lawyer Tampa Bay Area
Attorney Chris Beardslee has experience with risk protection order hearings and has documented success in getting RPO’s dismissed, even after a temporary ex-parte order was granted.
Chris is an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer serving the Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, and Pasco Counties.
He is dedicated to not only providing the best legal advice and defense for your specific case, but also to making sure that you are informed about the process and your legal options along the way. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your case or any current charges our office is happy to help.
Contact The Law Office of Chris Beardslee for a free consultation today. Call 813-496-7778 or fill out a contact form and we will get in touch with you.
What is a Risk Protection Order in Florida?
A risk protection order is a court order that requires an individual (the “Respondent”) to surrender firearms in their possession to law enforcement regardless of who they belong to. The respondent will also forfeit their license to carry a concealed weapon.
A risk protection order falls into the category of “Red Flag Laws” to protect society form persons deemed to be an imminent danger to themselves or others. Individuals under a risk protection order cannot purchase or possess any firearms or ammunition for a period of time prescribed by the Court. That time period can be up to one year or extended in exceptional circumstances.
The Florida Legislature passed Florida Statute 790.401 after the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. The intent was an attempt to reduce the possibility of a similar event by allowing authorities to confiscate firearms and ammunition for individuals a Court has deemed dangerous. This act calls for individuals to report their suspicions about a perceived dangerous person to law enforcement who will then investigate and seek a risk protection order from the court if they deem appropriate.
How does a Risk Protection Order get filed against you in Florida?
If a person contacts law enforcement and informs that you are:
- In possession of a firearm, and
- The person believes that you are a risk to yourself or to others.
Due to the media coverage and sensationalism of gun violence, this law is in place as an attempt to mitigate people deemed to be at an elevated risk of committing gun violence against themselves or others. These matters are taken very seriously by law enforcement and the courts. As such, sometimes a false or exaggerated claim can be used against an individual for nefarious or self-serving purposes.
Risk Protection Order Petitions
All petitions for RPO’s must comply with the requirements set forth in section 790.401, Florida Statutes.
All RPO petitions and accompanying documents must be in substantial compliance with the RPO forms approved by OSCA and/or the Florida Supreme Court and available on each Judicial Circuit’s website.
RPO petitions and accompanying documents can only be filed by a law enforcement officer or a law enforcement agency.
If law enforcement feels that the respondent poses a significant or immediate risk to themselves or the public, they may request a temporary ex-parte risk protection order from the court which allows them to confiscate firearms and ammunition before a hearing. The ex-parte order is only temporary—it lasts until the court hearing for the risk protection order.
How long does a Risk Protection Order last in Florida?
A risk protection order can be imposed for varying lengths of time and is determined by the court. The maximum time an RPO can last is one year, though it can be extended by the court in exceptional circumstances.
How can I defend myself against a Risk Protection Order in Florida?
Once a petition for a risk protection order is filed, the court must schedule a hearing within 14 days and serve notice to the respondent. The respondent then has the right to put on evidence and testimony of their own at the hearing to demonstrate that they are not an imminent threat to themselves or others or that the clear and convincing evidence threshold has not been met. A knowledgeable defense attorney will lay out why law enforcement are incorrect in their assertions or why the “clear and convincing” threshold necessary for a risk protection order has not been met.
If a risk protection order is granted, you may petition the court to have it vacated. This will trigger another hearing and allow you to make a case as to why the initial evidence or hearing was flawed.
You can only submit one petition to the court to have your risk protection order vacated. If your order is extended, you can submit one petition for each extension granted. As you only have one swing at these hearings, it’s crucial that you have a skilled defense attorney to help you navigate the process and present your best defense.
The Law Office of Chris Beardslee has experience in RPO hearings and has documented success in getting an RPO dismissed, even after an ex-parte order was initially granted.
When can I get my firearms back after a Risk Protection Order has been granted by a Florida court?
The length of a risk protection order is determined by a judge at an RPO hearing. Your firearms can be confiscated for up to one year. An extension can be granted in exceptional circumstances.
What happens if I violate a Risk Protection Order in Florida? (Punishments)
If an RPO has been issued against you, and you purchase, possess, or receive a firearm or ammunition, knowing that you are prohibited to do so, you are in violation of the risk protection order and can be charged with third degree felony.
In Florida, a third degree felony can result in a sentence of up to five years’ prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Making a False Statement in a Risk Protection Order Hearing
Likewise, under the Florida Risk Protection Order statute, making a false statement, which you do not believe to be true, under oath in an RPO hearing, is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.