Can I Possess a Firearm in DC if I Have a Civil Protective Order Against Me?

Updated on April 9th, 2024 at 08:37 pm

You already know that a civil protection order (CPO)can impose serious restrictions on your behavior for a specific period of time. However, does it prohibit you from possessing a firearm in the District of Columbia? According to DC civil protection order attorneys, it does.

What is a CPO?

A CPO is a court order issued by a D.C. Superior Court judge that imposes restrictions on the respondent. A CPO proceeding is initiated by the petitioner, who alleges that the respondent has committed a criminal offense against them that requires the court to impose limitations against the respondent’s ability to contact or see the petitioner. The respondent must be the petitioner’s current or former spouse or intimate partner, a relative, a housemate, or a co-parent.

If you have been served with a temporary protective order and have a pending CPO trial, a DC CPO lawyer can help you understand your rights and prepare your defense for the CPO trial.

Can I Handle a Firearm if a CPO Is Against Me?

No. If a CPO issued by a civil court is against you, you cannot buy or possess a gun. Most CPOs contain a provision requiring the respondent to relinquish all firearms in his or her possession to local authorities within 24 hours.

This means that it will be a criminal offense for the respondent to possess a gun once a CPO is in effect. Such an offense can carry a sentence of two to ten years and/or a fine of up to $15,000.

Federal Law also Bar Gun Possession

In addition to DC laws, federal law also prohibits a person from possessing, purchasing, selling, or otherwise handling guns or ammunition while a CPO is in effect. However, for federal law to apply in DC, it must be shown that the CPO:

  1. Was issued by a court where the respondent had notice of its proceedings and was able to attend the proceedings (even if the respondent did not actually attend);
  2. Was issued after a finding was made that the respondent represented a credible threat to the safety of the applicant;
  3. Specifically prohibits the respondent from assaulting, harassing, threatening, or stalking the petitioner or doing anything that may cause the petitioner to be reasonably fearful of his/her life or that of a child under his/her care;
  4. Specifically, it requires the petitioner to surrender firearms.

Temporary Protection Orders

Temporary protection orders are issued by a civil court before the actual CPO trial has occurred. They can be issued the day a petition is filed if a judge believes the applicant or his/her child is facing immediate danger. The respondent does not have to be aware that the hearing occurred.

Generally, a temporary protection order does not bar the petitioner from possessing a firearm. However, if the petitioner makes a special request to the judge for an order prohibiting the respondent from possessing a gun, and such a special request is granted and provided for in the order, the respondent will be prohibited from possessing a firearm.

If you have been served with a temporary protective order, this means that a CPO trial has been scheduled. Contact a DC CPO lawyer at Bruckheim & Patel to help you protect your rights.

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