Police Confiscate Thousands of Guns Under Florida’s Red Flag Law
In February 2018, a tragic and deadly shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida when a 19-year old stole the lives of 17 students and faculty members. After this tragedy, communities across the state made their voices heard demanding reformation of Florida’s gun control laws. That’s when Florida enacted its red flag law. Two years later, let’s look back on the impact that the red flag law has had statewide.
What is the Red Flag Law?
The red flag law allows law enforcement agencies across Florida to request a risk protection order against anyone believed to pose a threat to themselves or others around them. After submitting the request, a judge has 24 hours to hold a hearing with the petitioning officers and decide whether to grant the request. If the judge approves the petition, a temporary risk protection order will be entered against the person posing the threat, known as the respondent.
With that temporary risk protection order, police can search the respondent’s home and confiscate any firearms or ammunition they find. In a few weeks’ time, a second and final hearing will be held. The judge then decides whether to make the risk protection order permanent.
This hearing is a civil court process, so respondents can hire an attorney to represent them in court, but a court-appointed attorney will not be offered. If the judge grants the risk protection order, respondents can’t possess firearms or ammunition for up to one year. After that time has passed, law enforcement can submit a subsequent petition to extend the order.
How Often is the Red Flag Law Used in Florida?
In short, the red flag law has been used frequently since being enacted in 2018. Estimates show that in the two years between February 2018 – 2020, the red flag law got enacted 3,500 times or about five times per day. The counties in Florida with the highest number of risk protection orders include:
- Polk County
- Pinellas County
- Broward County
- Volusia County
- Miami-Dade County
Most judges grant the petition for a temporary risk protection order when law enforcement submits one. There are no public records to show how many guns have been seized or surrendered in Florida. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has noted that in his county, about 700 firearms and 135,000 rounds of ammunition were seized within the first year and a half after Florida passed the red flag law.
What Other States Also Have a Red Flag Law?
Florida is not the only state with a red flag law. There are 18 states altogether with either a red flag law or another version of an extreme risk law. Some of the most recent states to pass a red flag law, or something similar, include:
- New York
In Florida, only law enforcement can petition a judge for a risk protection order. If family members want to request one against a relative, they must go to the police, who can then petition one for the family. In other states, like Delaware and Colorado, family members can go straight to the courthouse and file a petition for a risk protection order without law enforcement’s help.
Misconceptions about Florida’s Red Flag Law
There are misconceptions that Florida’s red flag law is without due process. That isn’t true. In Florida, multiple layers of checks and balances prevent due process from being ignored. When law enforcement believes that an individual poses a threat, they must have their request approved by their supervisors in the sheriff’s office. Once the sheriff’s office agrees, the petition must then be granted by two attorneys before it can be filed and reviewed by a judge.
One key difference between judges issuing risk protection orders versus hearing a standard criminal case is the required thought process. When judges are ruling over a criminal case, they’re examining past behaviors and the defendant’s history before deciding. When a judge rules on a risk protection order, they’re looking into the future and predicting to their best ability whether this person will pose a threat.
Contact The Umansky Law Firm for Representation in Orlando
If you’ve been notified of an approaching court date where a judge will rule on your risk protection order, call The Umansky Law Firm for help. Our attorneys are board-certified and have more than 100 years of total combined experience. We offer free and confidential consultations to our new clients.
Call us to learn how we can help your case by filling out an online contact form or by calling our office. We’re available to discuss your case 24/7.