Attorneys, Fiduciaries and Conservators
As an attorney, you have an opportunity to advise or assist a client in filing for an ERPO if the client is concerned about the safety of a “family or household member,” a term broadly defined by the law, and including among other people dating partners and roommates. As a fiduciary or conservator you have an opportunity to inform a client’s family or law enforcement if a client’s gun usage has become unsafe. The bulk of the Massachusetts ERPO law can be found at Mass. G.L. c.140 §§ 121 and 131R through Y.
Talking about safe gun ownership and storage is a potentially life-saving action that can help keep people safe. You can either assist your client in filing an ERPO petition or you or your client may go directly to law enforcement and law enforcement may obtain an ERPO if they find it appropriate to do so.
If a client has risk factors such as an emotional crisis or dementia and is demonstrating signs of being dangerous such as suicidal ideation, aggression, public threats of violence, or is exhibiting other dangerous behaviors, you can consider contacting your local police department, or advising a client’s family member about ERPO, if consistent with your duty of confidentiality.
How to File A Massachusetts Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO)
There are no fees to file an ERPO petition. However, there are penalties for knowingly filing false information or for filing an ERPO with the intent to harass.
You can request that certain information in the petition remain confidential, even from the respondent.
In general, the confidential information in an ERPO petition is not deemed subject to a public records request.
You can also request that the information in the record be impounded.
Frequently Asked Questions
- 33% of adults 65+ report owning a gun.
- Men over the age of 65 have the highest rate of suicide, and three-quarters of them occur with a firearm.
Find out more on our Resources Page.
There are three types of ERPOs:
Under an ordinary petition, the Court will schedule a hearing within seven days of receipt of the ERPO petition. The notice of the hearing will be served on the respondent by someone in law enforcement. (See #2 below for situations where serving prior notice on the respondent would worsen the situation.) The hearing can happen as quickly as two days following the filing of the petition if a firearm is required for the respondent’s job.
If at the hearing the Court finds that it’s more likely than not that the respondent’s possession of a gun license and/or guns “causes a risk of bodily harm to self or others” the Court will issue an ERPO. That ERPO order is then transmitted by the Court to the licensing authority where the respondent lives, and law enforcement will then go to the respondent’s house, inform them of the order and that they must surrender their weapons. The Court will also inform the national background check system of the ERPO, so that the respondent cannot buy weapons out of state.
Although the “Extreme Risk Protection Order” (ERPO) is a civil procedure, violation of an ERPO order is a criminal offense. An ERPO is effective for up to one year from the date of issuance and can be renewed. The petitioner will receive notice 7 days before an ERPO is to expire so that they may refile if they feel appropriate.
2. Emergency ERPO
You can ask the Court to issue an ERPO without prior notice to the respondent. To do this, the Court must find reasonable cause that the respondent poses a risk of causing bodily injury to themselves or others by being in possession of a firearm or firearm license. The emergency order will expire within ten days unless a hearing is scheduled as described above, or if after such a hearing the Court finds no basis for issuing a permanent order. Thus far in MA, most ERPOs have proceeded under this provision.
3. Emergency Temporary Extreme Risk Protection Order
Only available through law enforcement when the courts are closed. Length of order: until 4:30pm on the next day the court is open.