What is an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO)?
An ERPO is a civil court order, signed by a judge, and is an intervention to temporarily prohibit someone from owning or purchasing firearms or ammunition to decrease their risk or hurting themselves or others, giving families and law enforcement a tool for preventing violence and trauma. Additionally, while the ERPO is in effect, an individual can safely access services and care that may help alleviate the crisis and prevent potential violence.
Who can request an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO)?
Who is considered a “family or household member” ?
• Is or was engaged to or married to the respondent
• Is or was living in the same household as the respondent
• Is or was related by blood or marriage to the respondent
• Has or is having a child with the respondent, regardless of whether they have ever been married or lived together
• Is or has been in a serious dating relationship with the respondent
If you don’t qualify to file a petition or if you know that the respondent doesn’t have a license to possess or carry firearms, but you believe the respondent poses a risk to themselves or others by having firearms, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, stun guns, or ammunition, you should contact the police department in the city or town where the respondent lives.
What do you need to request an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO)?
In addition to the petition, you must also fill out the Petitioner Confidential Information Form (FS-2) and Respondent Information Form (FS-3). The information you provide on the Petitioner Confidential Information form will be used to provide notifications regarding any changes or modifications to the ERPO. It may also be provided to the police if they need more information to serve the order on the respondent. Otherwise, the information in the Petitioner Confidential Information form isn’t available to the public. Except for your home and work address, the information is also not given to the respondent, although you may ask the court to not give that address information to the respondent as well. If you have a good reason why any other information provided shouldn’t be available to the public, you must file a Motion for Impoundment.
All ERPO forms are also available in all District Court and Boston Municipal Court (BMC) clerk’s offices.
How do you file an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO)?
• 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.
It is important to keep in mind that ERPO is still relatively new in the Commonwealth and it is quite possible you may encounter court personnel that have not had much experience with it. If you are speaking with someone at court who is not fully familiar with ERPO and the mechanics of filing it, do not be discouraged. You have a right to seek this protection. It may be helpful to go with the Mass.gov ERPO webpage on the browser of your phone (if it is safe for you to do so), or with a printed copy of the ERPO FAQ’s page, so that you have something to reference if you are met with any confusion. You can always ask to speak with someone in the clerk’s office for more assistance if you need it.
How do you file an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) when the courts are closed?
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 for business at 4:30 p.m. You will need to appear in court before the temporary order expires to be able to extend it.
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 ruled on your petition. A judge may not review and rule 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 law enforcement officer to serve a copy of the order on the respondent.
What happens after you file an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) with the court?
If the judge issues an emergency order in court, the judge will schedule a hearing which the respondent has a right to be at with or without a lawyer. Even if the judge doesn’t issue an emergency order, but thinks that a hearing is necessary, they can still schedule a hearing with notice to the respondent. This hearing will happen within 10 days of filing of the petition.
You, and your lawyer, if you decide to be represented by one, should come to this hearing, regardless of whether the respondent comes to the hearing.
At this hearing, you must establish that it’s more likely than not that the respondent poses a risk of hurting themselves or others by controlling, owning or possessing a gun or ammunition.
How long does an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) last if it is issued by the judge?
Can an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) be changed after it is issued?
Can an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) be renewed after it expires?
If you want to renew the order, you must go to court on the date that the order is set to expire and fill out a new petition, checking the box that says that you’re asking that the order be renewed. If you don’t go to court on that date, the order will expire. If you can’t appear in court that day, you should call the clerk’s office and tell them that you can’t appear.