As part of legislation passed in 2018 as a direct response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Florida state legislature established a new type of restriction that law enforcement officers may petition a court to place on a Florida resident. The ostensible purpose of this “Risk Protection Order” (RPO) is to prevent people who potentially pose a danger to others or to themselves, through their ownership of one or more firearms, to cause any harm to anyone in the future.
While the idea behind this legislation may have been noble, RPOs in practice can substantially limit your Constitutional rights and are sometimes invoked in situations where they are not at all warranted. If you have questions about Risk Protections Orders in Orlando or need help contesting an order that law enforcement is trying to pursue against you, speaking with an experienced firearm defense attorney should be a top priority.
The Risk Protection Order Act is codified in Florida Statutes § 790.401, which establishes how RPOs work in Florida, when they may be sought, and what restrictions may be included in an order granted by a state court. Unlike restraining orders and other similar court orders stemming from allegations of domestic violence, the only people with legal standing to seek a Risk Protection Order in Orlando are police officers or employees of law enforcement agencies.
On a basic level, RPOs are meant to be reserved exclusively for situations where there is substantial evidence indicating that a person may use a firearm and/or ammunition currently in their possession to harm themselves and/or others. Various actions may serve as relevant evidence in support of such a petition. That includes any recent threat of violence or violent act by the respondent with or without the involvement of a firearm, any such threat or act within the past 12 months, or evidence indicating serious and/or recurring mental illness. For example, detainment in a psychiatric facility is considered evidence of a mental illness.
The standard of proof that the party seeking an RPO must meet in order to have an RPO put in place against the respondent will be different during various parts of the petitioning process.
To obtain an ex parte Temporary RPO, which is meant as an emergency measure to prevent imminent harm and only lasts until the proceedings for a Final RPO conclude, the filing party must show “reasonable cause” for the order to be put in place. Reasonable cause is based on a significant danger the respondent poses of physically harming themselves or another person with a firearm and/or ammunition in their possession. Furthermore, the facts that are submitted to demonstrate significant danger must be based on the filing party’s personal knowledge and there must be evidence indicating imminent danger in the near future.
Final RPOs, on the other hand, are subject to a higher burden of proof. This is because the filing party must show through “clear and convincing evidence” that the respondent is at risk of harming themselves or others with a personal firearm. Notably, this same burden of proof also applies to a respondent seeking to have an RPO vacated.
Depending on the circumstances, effectively fighting back against Risk Protection Order proceedings in Orlando may begin with filing a Motion to Dismiss a Temporary RPO petition for cause. In other words, this means arguing that the filing party has not met the standards set under state law to establish “reasonable cause” for an RPO. In a similar vein, motioning to suppress or exclude evidence that has been obtained through unlawful means may be vital to minimizing the risk of an unfavorable case outcome.
Perhaps most importantly, motioning for a continuance early on in RPO proceedings may be the key to ensuring a respondent has enough time to build a comprehensive defense. A qualified lawyer could explain what strategies might be effective in a particular situation during a private initial meeting.
Once a Risk Protection Order is put in place, it can be extremely difficult to get it vacated through a subsequent court order. Because of that, it can be crucial for anyone facing these proceedings to understand how these orders work and how to effectively contest them in advance. This is made easier by having help from a seasoned criminal defense attorney.
Risk Protection Orders in Orlando are serious matters that should not be taken lightly. Call the Umansky Law Firm today to discuss your options.
Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney