Like other states, we have state-specific laws. One such law is Risk Protection Orders (RPOs) that are handled by the Domestic Violence (DV) Division under Florida Statute 790.401. To be clear, these orders are handled by a judge and initiated by a law enforcement officer. But, as a private citizen, if you are experiencing domestic violence or fear that a loved one is a danger to themselves or others, you can file a police report and ask that law enforcement initiate an RPO.
What are RPOs?
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSDHS) Public Safety Act passed in 2018 after a mass shooting. Part of this law created RPOs, which are colloquially known as “red flag laws.” An RPO restricts access to firearms and ammunition for people who pose a danger to themselves or others. For example, if you are DV victim, and your spouse has a gun that you fear they will use against you, in addition to a protective order, you can ask the police for an RPO to have your spouse’s guns and ammunition taken away.
The RPO petition
RPO petitions can only be filed by local law enforcement, and they are handled by the Domestic Violence Division, which only operates during business days and hours. However, they can be filed electronically at any time.
Ex parte RPO hearing
Once the judge receives the RPO petition, within 24 business hours, the judge will hold an ex parte hearing with that law enforcement officer who filed the petition. Generally, this hearing is held over the phone, not in person. After the hearing, the judge either grants or denies the temporary RPO, which gives the police a 72 hours compliance period in addition to setting the final hearing date within 14 business days. The order will also include a list of firearms, licenses and ammunition that the DV abuser has in their control and possession.
Once issued, the TRPO is sent to law enforcement (usually, the sheriff) to confiscate those items. This must be done within 72 hours, and if the DV abuser complies, the compliance hearing is cancelled. Search warrants are authorized for use to enforce TRPOs, but these requests are handled by the on-duty criminal judge for that county.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, you can get help from the city, county and an attorney. For Lakeland, Florida, residents, and those throughout Florida, have an additional layer of protection that is not available in all states, the RPO. This is in addition to filing for divorce.