Why Domestic Violence First Responders and Florida Gun Laws Clash
Written by Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law on June 12, 2018
For Orlando-area police officers, domestic violence calls are among the most dangerous situations they face. What starts out as a verbal argument between two people quickly escalates into threats of physical violence. And when one of the parties has a gun, these threats may turn into deadly action–exposing not only the other person but any law enforcement first responders who arrive at the scene.
Post-Stoneman Douglas Laws Will Likely Affect Domestic Violence Cases
Domestic violence is usually not a one-time occurrence. Police often find themselves responding to multiple calls from the same household over a period of weeks or months. This can significantly elevate the risk to law enforcement, as they know they are responding to a decaying domestic situation with a growing potential for violence.
For police, the key to ensuring a safe resolution is restricting the availability of firearms to the people inside the house–especially if one of the occupants has a documented history of domestic violence. Historically, this was easier said than done, as the victim had to first obtain an order of protection against domestic violence. Such orders typically require the subject to surrender any firearms he or she owns to the police.
But in the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas High School mass murder on February 14, the Florida legislature passed new legislation designed to further restrict access to firearms by individuals who are judged to be a risk to the public. Under the new law, signed by Gov. Rick Scott on March 9, a law enforcement officer may directly petition a Florida circuit court judge for a “risk protection order” against any individual who “poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to himself or herself or others by having a firearm or any ammunition in his or her custody or control.”
Once the officer files the petition, the court must hold a hearing within 14 days. In the interim, the judge can issue a temporary “ex parte” order immediately suspending the subject’s right to own or possess firearms. Following the hearing, the court can issue a final risk protection order if the state demonstrates by “clear and convincing evidence” that the subject does in fact pose a danger to the community. Note this standard is less rigorous than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases, but more stringent than the civil standard of “preponderance of the evidence.”
An Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer Will Make Sure the Courts Respect Your Rights
While Florida legislators acted in response to a horrific school shooting, the availability of risk protection orders will also prove beneficial to police looking to confront individuals suspected of domestic violence. A risk protection order does not require any action on the part of an accuser or victim, since law enforcement may now directly apply for an order to disarm someone deemed a threat to themselves or others.
At the same time, this may open the judicial system to abuses, as individuals subject to risk protection orders may not receive adequate due process before their rights are restricted. This is why it is always a good idea to work with an experienced Orlando domestic violence attorney who understands the law in this area and can advise you on how to best assert your rights in court. Contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, at (407) 377-0150, to schedule a consultation with a member of our team today.