Are you aware of someone who owns firearms and is presenting a danger to themselves or others?
Colorado’s new Red Flag law was passed in 2019 and went into effect in January of 2020.
A Red Flag law is an “if-you-see-something-say-something” law put in place by the Colorado Legislature to give Coloradans a way to alert law enforcement to people who have guns and are posing a threat to themselves or others.
Red Flag laws, also called Extreme Risk Protection Orders or ERPOs, give judges the ability to seize the firearms of people who are posing a danger to themselves or others, to protect public safety.
The law was created to give people a way to try to head off incidents of lethal domestic violence, suicides and mass shootings like those currently proliferating across the U.S. in schools, shopping malls, theaters, grocery stores, universities, in parking lots, at parades, in offices and other places Americans go in the course of their everyday lives. As of May 8, 2023, there have been more mass shootings than there have been days in America, so the threat of mass killings being committed by people who own or possess firearms is very real and happening more frequently now than ever before in our history.
The law was used 73 times in the first 7 months after it was enacted and as of the end of 2022, it has been used more than 350 times.
Making citizens aware of how to use Colorado’s Red Flag Law is crucial to public safety.
Despite this, not one local elected law enforcement official or agency has made information about how to apply this law easy to find, and none have so far taken steps to make the public aware of the existence of the law, or explain to the public how to use it.
So we’ll tell you how to use it.
How to implement the Red Flag Law in Mesa County:
The Red Flag Law creates the ability for a relative, family, friend, household member or other person, or a law enforcement officer to petition the court for a temporary extreme risk protection order (ERPO). Recognizing the need to file for an ERPO and actually filing it is a duty that largely falls on local citizens themselves.
The process of getting an ERPO starts with the local Court.
A citizen must ask the Mesa County Court to issue an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) for the person they are concerned about.
All the necessary forms to do this can be found at this link.
There is no cost to file an ERPO petition.
Because such situations are considered urgent, the law says the Court must hold a temporary hearing on the ERPO request either in person or by telephone on the same day the petition is filed, or on the court day immediately following the day the petition is filed. So once you file for an ERPO, things can move fast.
The person seeking an Extreme Risk Protection Order is the called the Petitioner. The person who is the subject of the ERPO for is called the Respondent.
Who can file for an ERPO?
The law says:
“A family or household member of the Respondent, a community member, or a law enforcement officer may request a Temporary Extreme Risk Protection Order without notice to the respondent.
A family, household, or community member is considered the following:
▪ The person is related by blood, marriage, or adoption to the respondent.
▪ The person has a child or children in common with the respondent. (Regardless of marriage or whether they have lived with the respondent at any time.)
▪ The person regularly resides or has regularly resided with the respondent within the last six months.
▪ The person is a domestic partner of the respondent.
▪ The person has a biological or legal parent-child relationship with the respondent. (Including stepparents and stepchildren, grandparents and grandchildren.)
▪ The person is acting or has acted as the respondent’s legal guardian.
▪ The person is the spouse or former spouse of the Respondent.
▪ In the past the person has been in or is presently in an unmarried couple relationship with the Respondent.
▪ The person is a licensed health-care or mental health professional that provided care to the Respondent, or their child, within the last six months.
▪ The person is an educator who, through a direct professional relationship, interacted with the Respondent, or their child, within the last six months.
◆ An Extreme Risk Protection Order means that the court has found the respondent poses a significant risk of causing personal injury to self or others by having in his or her custody or control a firearm or by purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm.”
The Petitioner will have to show the Court it’s more likely than not the Respondent presents an actual danger to themself or others by possessing a firearm. The Petitioner has to fill out and sign a written statement laying out facts that demonstrate why a temporary ERPO is needed, and give a reasonable basis for believing these facts are true. After the Court issues a temporary ERPO, a second hearing must be scheduled by the Court no more than 14 days after that to determine whether a continuing ERPO is warranted.
The Court will appoint a lawyer to represent the Respondent at the hearing. If at the second hearing the Court issues a continuing ERPO, it will ban the Responded from possessing guns for the next 364 days. The Respondent is allowed to have one hearing during those 364 days to prove to the Court he or she no longer poses a risk to self or others, and ask to Court to terminate the Order.
The person who filed the ERPO request can ask for an extension of the ERPO before it expires, but will have to give the Court “clear and convincing evidence” that the Respondent continues to pose a significant risk of causing personal injury to self or others by having, buying, or otherwise getting a firearm.
When you’re ready to file, go to the Colorado Judicial Branch “Forms” page:
Under “Forms and Instructions by Category,” scroll down to “Extreme Risk Protection Orders,” and click on the link for the Temporary ERPO.
On the next page, scroll down to form number JDF-573 and click to download it. This is the Petition and Affidavit for Temporary Extreme Risk Protection Order from the Court’s website. You can also get it right here on AnneLandmanBlog at this link.
Fill out all the blanks on the form as thoroughly as you can.
Remember, you are the “Petitioner,” and person you are concerned about is “Respondent.”
To protect your own safety, you don’t have to put your address on the form. Check the box indicating your relationship to the Respondent, and then explain in detail why the Respondent poses a credible threat of violence: Have you witnessed threats of violence by this person in the past year against yourself or others? Seen any patterns of violence by this person? Has the Respondent violated an existing Civil Protection Orders (restraining order) that you are aware of? Do you know about any crimes the Respondent has been convicted of in the past? What kinds of firearms does the Respondent already possess, and do they intend obtain more guns? Have they used firearms recklessly in the past? Have they used physical force against other people, or have they engaged in stalking? Has the Respondent abused alcohol or drugs? Do they have to carry a gun for their job? Have they recently purchased ammunition?
These are the kinds of questions you must answer on the form. Answer in as much details as you can, with times, dates, places, people involved, etc.
Indicate whether you have reported this person to law enforcement before or not. If you don’t want to put your real residential address on the form, then be ready to provide alternate address where the Court can mail you correspondence about this case.
Fill in the day, location and date you filled out the form, and print and sign you name on the lines indicated.
The form says “Contact the Court where you plan to file your case for specific days or times when Extreme Risk Protection order hearings are scheduled and to determine if they have any other filing requirements.”
Don’t worry about that. We’ve already contacted the Court and asked about all this.
The Clerk says “There are no certain times or days for Mesa County [to hear ERPO requests]. We assign the case to the next Judge in line for case assignment, and they fit it into their docket.”
Okay, you’ve filled out the form in detail. Now what do you do?
Go down and file your ERPO form with the Mesa County Court.
It’s pretty easy.
Go to the Mesa County Justice Center at 125 N. Spruce Street in downtown Grand Junction, one block west of Two Rivers Convention Center. (There’s free parking across the street.) Enter the lobby and go through the metal detectors, then immediately turn left in front of the elevators and go into the Combined Clerk’s service area. Wait for the next available clerk, then step to the window and hand the Clerk your filled-out JDF-573 form. The clerk will stamp “Received,” assign it a case number and assign a date and time for a hearing before a judge who will rule on your ERPO request to temporarily remove the Respondent’s firearms. The Court will schedule the hearing as soon as possible.
Again, there is no fee to file this request.
Make sure you attend the Court hearing on your case at the assigned date and time. Arrive a few minutes early to find the correct courtroom.
The judge will have read your JDF 573 form thoroughly prior to the hearing, and during the hearing will probably ask you additional questions about your ERPO request. Be calm and answer clearly and factually. Bring any additional evidence you have access to to bolster your case, like a log of dates and times that the Respondent has engaged in specific threatening behaviors, descriptions of these incidents, police reports you’ve made or notes you’ve taken about the person and their behavior, any information you couldn’t put on the form, like videos, photos, and statements of other people who’ve witnessed the Respondent’s behavior, too. Bring any witnesses with you who can also speak to the need for the order.
The Judge can decide to issue the order or not, depending on how good a case you make for it. If and when the judge issues the order, law enforcement officials will take it from there to remove the Respondent’s firearms. You won’t have to do this yourself.
And thank you in advance for finding out how to use this law and making the effort to protect the public’s safety.