In 2018, the Maryland Legislature passed a bill signed into law by Governor Hogan creating Maryland’s Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO). This kind of protective order is specific to a person who poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to self or others by having firearms. This kind of temporary order has not been found to be violative of Second Amendment privileges.
An ERPO is a civil temporary order that requires the person to surrender any firearms and ammunition to law enforcement and, in some circumstances, can refer the person for an emergency evaluation due to a mental disorder. However, it is limited in scope and cannot order things traditionally done with a protective order or peace order. An ERPO does not carry the stay-away provisions of a protective order or peace order.
A petition for an ERPO can be filed by:
- A spouse;
- A cohabitant in the household;
- A relative by blood, marriage, or adoption;
- A person with child(ren) in common;e
- A current dating or intimate partner;
- A current or former legal guardian;
- A law enforcement officer; or
- A medical professional who has examined the respondent.
The petitioner must give specific information to the Court on how the person presents an immediate and present danger of hurting others if that person continues to possess a firearm. Some factors demonstrating possible risk include that the person has behaved in an alarming manner, is in unlawful possession of a firearm, has used a firearm in a reckless or negligent manner, has threatened violence to self or others, has violated a peace or protective order, or is abusing drugs or alcohol. The Court can also make a finding based on a report from a medical professional who has examined the person.
You can apply for an ERPO by obtaining the forms from the Clerk of the Court or on-line at www.mdcourts.gov. You would need to complete a Petition for Extreme Risk Protective Order (DC-ERPO-001) and both addendum forms (Description of Respondent DC-ERPO-001A and Summary of Respondent’s Behavior & Mental Health History DC-ERPO-001B). You must sign the petition and file it with the addendum forms with the District Court Clerk, or if the clerk’s office is closed, file with a District Court commissioner.
Once you have filed the petition, you will be required to appear for a temporary hearing. A 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. You will also be required to appear for a final hearing, which the court will usually schedule 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.
If the Court issues a Final ERPO, it can be in effect for 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. Either party can appeal the District Court’s order issued after a Final ERPO hearing. The appeal is filed in the Circuit Court in the County where the petition was decided. However, the District Court judgment will remain in effect unless and until it is superseded by a judgment of the Circuit Court. In addition, a judge can modify, rescind, or extend an Extreme Risk Protective Order after a hearing on a Petition to Modify/Rescind/Extend Extreme Risk Protective Order.
Once an ERPO is served, all firearms 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. When the ERPO ends, the person may request the return of firearms/ammunition, and the law enforcement agency must return them unless the person is otherwise prohibited from possessing them. If the person violates the ERPO while it is in effect, it 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.
All court records relating to an Extreme Risk Protective Order are confidential, the case does not appear on Maryland Judiciary Case Search, and the contents may not be divulged, by subpoena or otherwise, except by order of the court on good cause. Access to these records is limited to 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, and any person authorized by court order for good cause shown.