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Request an Extreme Risk Protection Order

An Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), also known as a red flag order, is an order from a judge that takes away a person’s license to have or carry a gun.

Boston Municipal Court Department and District Court Department

The Details of Request an Extreme Risk Protection Order

What you need for Request an Extreme Risk Protection Order

A family or household member or the police department in the city or town where the respondent lives can file an ERPO petition. To ask for an ERPO, you must fill out a Petition for Extreme Risk Protection Order (FS-1)

You should provide as much information as possible about specific statements, actions, or facts that show the respondent poses a risk of physically hurting themselves or others by having firearms, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, stun guns, or ammunition and a license to have or carry guns. You should also provide as much information as possible about how many firearms the respondent has access to and where those firearms are. If necessary, provide any paperwork that will help the judge decide whether to issue an order.

You should also fill out:

The information you provide on the Petitioner Confidential Information form is not available to the public, the respondent, or the respondent’s lawyer. It will only be shared with people who need to see it in order to do their jobs, like prosecutors or police. However, court records of the matter will be open to the public. You can ask the court to impound the records if you have a good reason why you need the procedure to be kept secret. A general wish for privacy is not a reason to have the records impounded.

All ERPO forms are also available in all District Court and Boston Municipal Court (BMC) clerk’s offices.

How to request Request an Extreme Risk Protection Order

  • If you're asking for an order during court business hours — File a petition in the clerk’s office in the District Court location or BMC location for the city or town where the respondent lives.
  • If you're asking for an order during non-court business hours — Go to the police station in the city or town where the respondent lives and tell the police that you’d like to file a petition for an ERPO. If you can’t go to the police station in the city or town where the respondent lives, go to the closest police station.

Next steps for Request an Extreme Risk Protection Order

  1. Hearing before a judge

    For emergency orders (after court hours)

    A police officer will call an “on-call” judge and tell the judge that you’re asking for an emergency ERPO. The police officer will read your petition to the judge over the phone, or the judge may ask that you read the petition over the phone. The judge may also ask you questions.

    If the judge issues an emergency ERPO, the order is temporary, and will only be in effect until the end of the next court day, when court closes at 4:30 p.m.

    The judge will have a police officer in the city or town where the respondent lives serve the order to the respondent. If you want the order to be in effect longer than the end of the next court day, you must go to the District Court or Boston Municipal Court for the city or town where the respondent lives at 9:00 a.m. Tell the clerk’s office that an on-call judge issued an emergency ERPO during non-court hours that you’d like to have extended. If the police have already given the clerk the petition you submitted at the police station, you won’t have to fill out a new petition for the judge. If they don’t have your petition, you’ll need to fill out a new petition and information forms.

    During court hours

    You’ll have to appear in front of a judge. You shouldn’t leave the courthouse until you’ve appeared in front of a judge and the judge has made a decision on your petition. The exact amount of time it takes for your matter to go before a judge will depend on the courthouse's size and business. A judge can't review and decide on your petition unless you’re in the courthouse. If the judge allows your petition, an emergency ERPO will issue and will be in effect for up to 10 days. The judge will tell a police officer to serve a copy of the order on the respondent.

  2. Hearing after notice

    If the judge issues an emergency order in court, the judge will schedule a hearing. The respondent has a right to be at the hearing with or without a lawyer. Even if the judge doesn’t issue an emergency order, but thinks there should be a hearing, they can still schedule a hearing with notice to the respondent. This hearing will happen within 10 days of when the petition was filed.

    You and your lawyer, if you have one, should come to this hearing, even if the respondent doesn’t come to the hearing.

    At this hearing, you must prove that it’s more likely than not that the respondent poses a risk of hurting themselves or others by controlling, owning or having a gun or ammunition.

    If an ERPO is issued after a full hearing, it will be in effect for 1 year, or for less than 1 year as the judge orders. When an order is issued, the judge will give a specific date for when the order will expire.

More info for Request an Extreme Risk Protection Order

After a judge issues an ERPO, both you and the respondent have the right to ask the court to change or end the order at any time. If either party asks for this, the judge will have a hearing. If the respondent makes the request, the clerk’s office will tell you. The court also has to notify a petitioner 30 days before an order will expire.

Renewing an order

If you want to renew the order, go to court on the date that the order will expire and fill out a new petition. Check the box that says you’re asking for the order to be renewed. If you don’t go to court on that date, the order will expire. If you can’t come to court that day, you should call the clerk’s office and tell them that you can’t come.

License reinstatement

After an ERPO is ended or expires, a license to have/carry firearms won’t be reinstated, and any surrendered items won’t be returned unless the police department where the respondent lives decides that the respondent is suitable to be licensed and have or carry firearms. For questions on the suitability process, please contact your local police department.

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