The New Florida Red Flag Law on Firearms

After the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, Florida enacted a red flag law to legally disarm gun owners at risk of perpetrating gun violence or using a gun to harm themselves or others. The Florida red flag law is popular with proponents of stricter gun control laws but can be a challenge for legal firearm owners to retain their right to own guns and ammunition. The law office of Michael White, PA is among the first in Broward County to represent these cases. 

What Are “Red Flag” Gun Laws?

Red flag gun laws in Florida fall under Risk Protection Orders (RPOs). In a Risk Protection Order, a law enforcement officer can file an RPO petition against a person they believe to be a danger if in possession of a firearm. The respondent (the person against whom the officer is filing the petition) can fight the order in a civil court hearing.

Risk Protection Orders in Florida

The law enforcement officer or agency who files the petition against the individual must follow the appropriate procedures to ensure they include all necessary documentation. They will file their petition with the circuit court of the county where the respondent lives or in the agency’s location. The petition must contain the following:

  • The allegation that the respondent poses a danger to themselves or others if they possess or purchase a firearm or ammunition
  • An affidavit by the petitioner describing the specific facts that led them to this conclusion
  • A list of weapons and ammunition believed to be in the respondent’s possession
  • Information about any other protective orders against the respondent
  • Additional documentation of mental illness or domestic violence conviction

When the court receives the petition, it schedules a hearing. A respondent may have even fewer days to build a case against the claim, depending on how long it takes for the petitioner to serve the petition.

The petitioner may also file for a Temporary Ex Parte Risk Protection Order (TRPO), which requires that the court hold a hearing by the next business day, either in person or by telephone. When a law enforcement officer files a TRPO against an individual, the respondent may have no knowledge of the petition or hearing and judgment against them.

If the court rules in favor of issuing a TRPO, the respondent may only find out about the petition when served. The law enforcement agency serving the petition may seize the respondent’s firearms and ammunition when they serve the petition.

The court may issue an RPO to last no more than 12 months, but the original petitioner can request an extension for an additional 12 months before the end of the initial term.

What to Do When Served With an RPO

The Florida Red Flag Law involves a civil hearing in the county circuit court where the petition was filed. In civil proceedings, the defendant doesn’t have the right to a defense attorney as in criminal cases. This makes defending against the plaintiff’s charges difficult, as many defendants may not have the time or funds to retain a lawyer against an RPO before the hearing.

If you’re facing an RPO, having a knowledgeable attorney can help build your case to retain your second amendment rights or file to vacate the RPO if the court rules against you.

Contact a Knowledgeable Red Flag Law Attorney in South Florida

The Florida red flag law doesn’t give respondents much time to react to an RPO petition. A law enforcement officer could file a petition for any reason, including your mental health, and state that they believe you’re capable of gun violence. Call the law offices of Michael White, P.A., at 954-350-0595 or contact us online to represent you as soon as possible.

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After several years as a prosecutor and General Counsel for the Broward County Police Benevolence Association (PBA), Michael White started his own practice focused on protecting individuals accused of crimes.

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