Governor Hogan last month signed into law a new gun control measure known as a “red flag” law, joining Florida and several other states in the wake of the Parkland Florida school shooting. This law allows for certain persons to petition the court to order the temporary surrender of firearms from persons found to be dangerous in possessing them. The new law, found in the Public Safety Article, works as follows.
The law allows for certain persons to apply for an extreme risk protective order. The list of persons who can petition the Maryland Circuit or District Court includes mental health professionals such as a physician, psychologist, clinical social worker, or licensed health officer who has examined the individual. It includes a law enforcement officer, the person’s spouse, cohabitant or intimate partner, or person who has a child in common with the person. The respondent is the person against whom the petition is filed.
A petition for such an order must be signed under oath, and contain information known to the petitioner that the respondent “poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to the respondent, the petitioner, or another by possessing a firearm.” The petition must describe the number, types and locations of any known firearms believed to be possessed by the respondent, and may include supporting documents including health records. A person who files such a petition in good faith is not civilly or criminally liable for filing it.
If the Court finds by a preponderance of evidence reasonable grounds to believe that the respondent poses an immediate and present danger, it may enter an interim extreme risk protective order to prohibit the respondent from possessing a firearm ordering surrender of the firearm to law enforcement and prohibiting purchase or possession of any firearm or ammunition. Such an interim order shall indicate the time for a temporary extreme risk protective order hearing, which shall be held on the first of second day court is sitting after issuance of the interim order. A person subject to such an order must surrender the firearms to law enforcement.
The temporary order is ordinarily effective for not more than 7 days after service of the order, but may be extended as needed not to exceed 6 months. Another hearing can then be held as to issuance of a final protective order, good for up to one year. If the respondent does not surrender the firearms, a search warrant may be issued to seize them. The weapons are to be stored by law enforcement as long as such an order is in effect.
Thomas Patrick Ryan is a partner in the Rockville law firm of McCarthy Wilson, which specializes in civil litigation.