Extreme Risk Protective Orders

On October 1, 2018, Maryland's new Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) law will take effect. (HB1302, Ch. 250 of the 2018 Legislative Session)

What is an Extreme Risk Protective Order, and what CAN it do?
What an Extreme Risk Protective Order CANNOT do
Who can file an Extreme Risk Protective Order?
Who is an Extreme Risk Protective Order filed against?
How to apply for an Extreme Risk Protective Order
Where do I file the Petition for Extreme Risk Protective Order?
What are the fees/costs associated with Extreme Risk Protective Order filings?
Do I need an attorney?
How long does an order last?
What if either side disagrees with the judge's decision?  Can an appeal be filed?
Can an Extreme Risk Protective Order be modified, rescinded, or extended?
What happens if the respondent violates the order?
What does the respondent need to do if ordered to surrender firearms and ammunition?
How and when does a respondent regain possession of firearms and ammunition?
Are court records relating to an Extreme Risk Protective Order confidential?
How do I request an emergency evaluation against an individual who is believed to have a mental disorder and presents a danger to the life or safety to self or others?

 

What is an Extreme Risk Protective Order, and what CAN it do? 

An Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) is a court-issued civil order temporarily requiring a person to:

  • surrender any firearms or ammunition to law enforcement; and
  • not purchase or possess firearms or ammunition.

With reasonable belief that a person meets the requirements, an ERPO allows the court to refer someone for an emergency evaluation due to mental disorder.

What an Extreme Risk Protective Order CANNOT do 

An ERPO cannot order a person to:

  • stop threatening or committing abuse;
  • stay away from your home, place of employment, or school;
  • have no contact with you or others. 

There are other legal remedies to obtain these protections. 

If you need protection for yourself or a family member, see the "How to File for a Peace or Protective Order" Brochure (CC-DC-DV-PO-001BR).

An ERPO is a civil order and not a criminal charge.  See a District Court commissioner or a State's Attorney to file criminal charges.

Who can file an Extreme Risk Protective Order?

The person requesting an ERPO is the petitioner.  A petition may be filed by a: 

  • spouse;
  • cohabitant;
  • relative by blood, marriage, or adoption;
  • person with child(ren) in common; 
  • current dating or intimate partner; 
  • current or former legal guardian;
  • law enforcement officer; or
  • medical professional who has examined the respondent (this includes a physician, psychologist, clinical social worker, licensed clinical professional counselor, clinical nurse specialist in psychiatric and mental health nursing, psychiatric nurse practitioner, licensed clinical marriage or family therapist, or health officer or designee of a health officer who has examined the individual).

Who is an Extreme Risk Protective Order filed against? 

A person who poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to self or others by having firearms.  The person who is alleged to be a danger is called the respondent.

Factors demonstrating possible risk include: 

  • alarming behavior and statements;
  • unlawful firearm possession;
  • reckless or negligent firearm use;
  • violence or threats of violence to self or others;
  • violating peace or protective orders;
  • drug and/or alcohol abuse; and/or
  • information contained in health records.

An Extreme Risk Protective Order can be filed against a minor.   

How to Apply for an Extreme Risk Protective Order

Step 1: Complete the petition and addendum forms

Step 2: File the petition

  • File the Petition for Extreme Risk Protective Order and addendum forms in District Court.
  • When the clerk's office is open, file the petition with a District Court clerk.
  • If the clerk's office is closed, file with a District Court commissioner.  

Visit mdcourts.gov/district/directories/commissionermap for commissioner locations and mdcourts.gov/district/directories/courtmap for court locations.
 
Step 3: Appear for a temporary hearing

  • The judge may issue a temporary order if he/she reasonably believes the respondent, by having firearms, poses an immediate and present danger of causing injury to himself/herself, you, or others. 
  • The judge may hold a final hearing instead of a temporary hearing if: 
    • (a) the respondent appears at the hearing; (b) the respondent has been served with an interim extreme risk protective order; or (c) the court otherwise has personal jurisdiction over the respondent; and
    • the petitioner and the respondent expressly consent to waive the temporary extreme risk protective order hearing. 
  • If court is closed unexpectedly, hearing will be held on the next day on which the court is open.  

Step 4: Appear for a final hearing

  • Usually, the court will schedule a hearing within seven (7) days after the respondent is served the Temporary ERPO.
  • The judge may hold the final hearing with or without the respondent being present if the respondent has been served.  A final hearing may not be held without service on the respondent. 
  • The Final ERPO period can be as long as one (1) year. 
  • The court can extend the Final ERPO for an additional six (6) months (for good cause) after notifying the parties and holding a subsequent hearing.
  • If the court is closed unexpectedly, the hearing will be held on the second day on which the court is open.   

What are the fees/costs associated with Extreme Risk Protective Order filings? 

  • There are no filing fees or service fees for Extreme Rick Protective Orders.  Additionally, there is no fee to file an appeal.

Do I need an attorney?

It is your decision.  If you decide to consult/hire an attorney, make contact as soon as possible to allow the attorney enough preparation time to assist you.

How long does an order last?

  • An Interim ERPO usually lasts until the Temporary ERPO hearing, but not beyond the second business day after issued unless the court is unexpectedly closed. 
  • A Temporary ERPO lasts until the Final ERPO hearing, but not beyond six (6) months. 
  • A Final ERPO may remain in effect for as long as one (1) year.  The court for good cause may extend the term of the order for an additional six (6) months after a subsequent hearing.

What if either side disagrees with the judge's decision?  Can an appeal be filed? 

  • Either party may appeal a District Court judge's decision to either grant or deny an ERPO.
  • File an appeal with the District Court in the county where the petition was decided.
  • The District Court judgment remains in effect until superseded by a judgment of the Circuit Court. 

Can an Extreme Risk Protective Order be modified, rescinded, or extended?

What happens if the respondent violates the order?

Violating an order is a crime that may result in a finding of contempt, arrest, criminal prosecution, imprisonment, and/or fine. The respondent can be arrested with or without a warrant if a law enforcement officer has probable cause.

What does the respondent need to do if ordered to surrender firearms and ammunition?

  • If a law enforcement officer serves the respondent personally with the Extreme Risk Protective Order, the respondent must immediately surrender all firearms to the officer. 
  • If the respondent receives the Extreme Risk Protective Order by mail, the respondent must contact the law enforcement agency designated in the order and arrange for the immediate surrender of all firearms and ammunition in their possession.  The following steps must be followed to transport a firearm to surrender it: 
    • Notify the law enforcement unit, barracks, or station that the firearm is being transported in accordance with the Extreme Risk Protective Order;
    • Make sure the firearm is unloaded;
    • Transport the firearm directly to the law enforcement unit, barracks, or station; and
    • Carry a copy of the Extreme Risk Protective Order that requires the surrender of any firearm when transporting the firearm to the appropriate authorities.

The respondent must comply with the law enforcement agency's delivery instructions. Each firearm and ammunition must be surrendered IMMEDIATELY to the designated law enforcement agency for the county or city where the Extreme Risk Protective Order was issued. Contact information for the designated law enforcement agency will be included with the order.

How and when does a respondent regain possession of firearms and ammunition?

When the ERPO terminates or expires, the custodial law enforcement agency:

  • notifies the respondent that he/she may request return of firearms/ammunition;
  • verifies the respondent is not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms/ammunition if the respondent submits a request for the return of the firearms/ammunition; and 
  • returns the respondent's firearms/ammunition no later than: 
    • 14 days after the expiration of an Interim or Temporary ERPO;
    • 14 days after a court terminates a Final ERPO; or
    • 48 hours after the expiration of a Final ERPO.

Are court records relating to an Extreme Risk Protective Order confidential? 

  • All court records relating to an Extreme Risk Protective Order are confidential and the contents may not be divulged, by subpoena or otherwise, except by order of the court on good cause. A reference to the court record will not be included on the Judiciary's Case Search.   
  • However, the following parties do have access:
    • personnel of the court;
    • the respondent or counsel for the respondent;
    • authorized personnel of the Maryland Department of Health;
    • authorized personnel of a local core service agency or local behavioral health authority;
    • law enforcement agencies; or
    • a person authorized by a court order for good cause shown.

How do I request an emergency evaluation against an individual who is believed to have a mental disorder and presents a danger to the life or safety to self or others?

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