Before you can be punished for a crime in Florida, you must be convicted of something, and the punishment is supposed to fit the severity of the crime. But there is one crucial exception you should know about. Thanks to the risk protection order (RPO), law enforcement can seize firearms in your possession without arresting or even accusing you of criminal activity.
The RPO process in Florida
Only police officers can ask a judge to issue an RPO. The process starts when someone contacts the police to claim that another person poses a “significant” danger to themselves or others, and that person has access to firearms and ammunition. Typically, the person who calls the police is a relative or close friend, though the statute does not specify who can do it. By law, the police petition must include an affidavit made under oath detailing the evidence “that gives rise to a reasonable fear” that the person might cause harm.
The judge who receives the petition may order a temporary ex parte RPO. “Ex parte” means that one of the parties — in this case, the person accused of being a danger — is not present. The authorities can then seize and hold any firearms in the accused person’s possession until there is a court hearing on whether to make the RPO permanent. This hearing must take place within 14 days of the court’s receiving the petition from the police.
Possible evidence that a person’s guns should be taken away
At the hearing, the accused person has the chance to contest the order and confront evidence that they pose a “significant” danger. Such evidence can include, but are not limited to:
- Recent alleged threats of violence
- Signs of severe mental illness
- Violations of a previous RPO or no-contact order
- “Unlawful or reckless use, display or brandishing of a firearm”
The judge may also decide to order the accused person to undergo a mental health or addiction evaluation to help them determine if an RPO is necessary. If the judge issues an RPO, it must include a fixed end date, though the court can extend how long it is in place. The respondent has the right to request another hearing to have the RPO vacated, but only once. They get another chance to request a vacated order every time the court extends it.
Anyone who owns or possesses a firearm in Boca Raton potentially can lose that property to an RPO. If you receive notice of an RPO hearing, consult a defense attorney as soon as possible.