Extreme Risk Protection Order (Red Flag Law)

An Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) is a civil order issued by a court when someone is at risk of violence to self (including suicide) or others.  A person with an ERPO cannot purchase, own, or possess guns while the order is in place.

State laws often do not provide a clear legal authority to restrict access to guns before a tragedy occurs, even when it is clear that an individual is at risk of suicide, or harm to self or others. ERPO laws provide a legal means, using a civil process, to prevent potential tragedies.

  1. Filing an ERPO FAQs
  2. What to do if you have been served with an ERPO and FAQs
  3. How to turn in your firearms and FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions for Filing an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO)

Who files an ERPO?

Depending on state law, ERPO petitions may be filed by:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Dating partners
  • Family, including someone related by blood, marriage, or adoption.
  • Health care professional
  • Legal guardian
  • People who are living together
  • People who have a child in common
  • School administrator

*If you are afraid to ask the court, you should talk to your local law enforcement office.

What is an ERPO?

An ERPO is a civil order issued by a court when someone is at risk of violence to self (including suicide) or others.  A person with an ERPO cannot purchase or possess guns while the order is in place.

Will the ERPO protect me personally?

No, this order is just about temporarily removing access to firearms.  If you need personal protection, you will need a separate protection order.

How long does an ERPO last?

A temporary order will last until the court hearing date (within 14 days of filing).  A more permanent order can then be issued that lasts for one year and may be renewed.

What forms do I need?

You can find the petition form at www.courts.wa.gov/forms or go to your local Superior Court Clerk’s office and they will give you forms.

Where do I go to get an ERPO?

You must file a petition where either you or the person you are worried about lives.  Take the filled-out forms to the Superior Court clerk’s office.  The clerk will give you a hearing date and time.  If you want a temporary order, the hearing will likely be the same day that you file.

Will I have to pay a filing fee?

No, their is no cost for an order.

How will the person know about the hearing or temporary ERPO?

A law enforcement officer will "serve" (give) the person a copy of the order and the petition which includes the date, time, and place of the hearing.

What do I have to prove in court?

If you are asking for a temporary ERPO you will have to provide evidence the person poses a significant danger in the near future of hurting themselves, or another person by having a firearm by a preponderance of the evidence.  At the hearing for the year-long ERPO, you will have to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the person poses a significant danger of hurting themselves, or others, by having a firearm or having access to their firearms.

How can I convince the court?

The court needs specific information, such as whether the respondent owns, has tried to purchase, or may have access to, firearms.  Include in your petition why you believe the person is dangerous to themselves or others.  Have there been any recent acts or threats of violence in the last 12 months?  Have they violated any kind of protection order?  Have the police been called?  Has the person been arrested or convicted of a crime?  Is there a history of violence?  A history of stalking?  Has the person been identified by a mental health provider as a danger?  You can also include in your any signed, sworn statements from any other people who have direct knowledge about the person’s history and actions.

How soon can I get an ERPO?

You can ask for a temporary ERPO which will be effective immediately, if you don’t, then a hearing will be held no later than 14 days after you file.

Do I have to go to court?

Yes.  You must go to court on the date the clerk gives you.  A court may schedule a hearing by telephone when it is necessary to accommodate a disability or "in exceptional circumstances" to protect a petitioner from potential harm.

Do I need to bring a witness to the hearing?

No, but if you think it will help convince the court, consider bringing witnesses, or witness statements made under oath, photos or videos, medical or police reports, damaged property, threatening letters, emails, texts, or telephone messages.  The court may or may not let witnesses speak at the hearing.  So, if possible, you should bring their written sworn statements to the hearing.

Do I need a lawyer?

It is not required.  You can ask the court clerk about free and low-cost legal services in your county.

Will I see the restrained person at the court hearing?

Yes, if the respondent comes to the hearing.  If you are afraid, let court staff know.

**Information taken from www.protectionorder.org and https://americanhealth.jhu.edu/implementERPO