AN ACT TO AUTHORIZE THE ISSUANCE OF AN EXTREME RISK PROTECTION ORDER TO RESTRICT TEMPORARILY A PERSON'S ACCESS TO FIREARMS IF THERE IS EVIDENCE THAT THE PERSON POSES A DANGER OF PHYSICAL HARM TO SELF OR OTHERS.
Enacts new GS Chapter 50E, the Extreme Risk Protection Orders Act, providing a court procedure for concerned citizens and law enforcement to obtain an order temporarily restricting a person's access to firearms in situations where a person poses a significant danger of harming themselves or others by possessing a firearm. Includes related legislative findings. Sets out defined terms applicable to the Chapter.
Allows either a family or household member or a law enforcement officer or agency to file a verified petition in district court for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) in any county authorized by the venue provisions set out in GS 1-82 (most commonly where the plaintiff or defendant resides). Defines family or household member to be (1) a person related by blood, marriage, or adoption to the respondent; (2) a dating partner of the respondent; (3) a person who has a child in common with the respondent; (4) a domestic partner of the respondent; (5) a person who has a biological or legal parent-child relationship with the respondent, including stepparents, stepchildren, grandparents, and grandchildren; and (6) a person who is acting or has acted as the respondent's legal guardian. Sets out information required in the petition, including: (1) a factual allegation that the respondent poses a danger of physical harm to self or others (and in the case of an ex parte ERPO, poses an imminent danger of physical harm to self or others) by having in his or her care, custody, possession, ownership, or control a firearm; (2) an identification of the number, types, and locations of firearms under the respondent's custody or control; (3) an identification of any existing protection order governing the respondent; and (4) an identification of any pending legal action between the petitioner and the respondent. Requires an ERPO petition to be accompanied by a written statement made by a witness that states specific facts supporting the allegation in the petition along with the witness's name and relationship to the petitioner, or an audio and visual recording of the incident the petitioner is using as the basis for the ERPO.
Clarifies that a petition for an ERPO can be granted without delay regardless of whether there is pending action between the petitioner and the respondent. Provides for a petitioner to use the substitute address designated by the Address Confidentiality Program when filing documents required by new Chapter 50E. Prohibits the assessment of court costs or attorneys' fees for filing or service of an ERPO petition or service of any ERPOs, except for sanctions for violations regarding signing and verification of the pleadings under GS 1A-1, Rule 11. Authorizes electronic filing of all documents filed, issued, registered, or served in an action under new Chapter 50E.
Requires a summons be issued and served no later than five days prior to the date set for the full ERPO hearing, with the ERPO petition, any ex parte ERPO that has been issued and the notice of hearing on the ex parte ERPO, and a description of an ERPO attached. Directs the clerk of court to effect service through the appropriate law enforcement agency.
Sets forth the required information that must be included in an ERPO, including (1) a statement of the grounds supporting its issuance; (2) the date and time the ERPO was issued and when it expires; (3) whether a mental health or chemical dependency evaluation of the respondent is required; (4) the court's address where a responsive pleading can be filed; (5) a description of the relinquishment and retrieval requirements for firearms, ammunition and related permits of the respondent; (6) a description of the process for seeking termination of the ERPO; and (7) a statement that violation of the ERPO is a Class A1 misdemeanor.
Details the parameters of issuing an ex parte ERPO without service or notice. Requires the court to find by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that the respondent poses an imminent danger of causing physical injury to self or others by having in his or her custody a firearm before a judge or magistrate can issue an ex parte ERPO. Provides that the chief district court judge can designate for each county at least one judge or magistrate to be reasonably available to issue ex parte ERPOs when the court is not in session. Authorizes hearings to consider ex parte relief to be held by video conference.
Details the parameters of issuing a full ERPO, including a hearing on the petition no later than 10 days from either the date an ex parte ERPO was issued, if applicable, or the date the petition was filed. Allows for one continuance of no more than 10 days unless all parties consent or good cause is shown. Permits issuance of a full ERPO when (1) the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the respondent poses a danger of causing physical injury to self or others by having in his or her custody a firearm, (2) process was proper, and (3) notice of hearing was proper.
Requires the respondent to immediately surrender to the sheriff possession of all firearms, ammunition, and permits in the custody or control of the respondent upon service of an ERPO, or within 24 hours of service at a time and place specified by the sheriff in the event weapons cannot be surrendered at the time the ERPO is served. Requires the sheriff to issue receipt at the time of surrender or seizure, and file receipt with the court within 48 hours after issuing the receipt. Provides for a warrant to be issued for failure to surrender firearms. Allows the sheriff to charge the respondent a reasonable fee for the storage of any firearms and ammunition taken pursuant to an ERPO. Provides for retrieval if the ex parte ERPO expires and the court does not enter a full ERPO. Otherwise, requires the respondent to file a motion for retrieval within 90 days after an ERPO expires, whereby surrendered firearms, ammunition, and permits must be returned to the respondent within 30 days of the motion unless the court finds the respondent is otherwise precluded from owning or possessing a firearm pursuant to state or federal law. Provides for motion for return by a third party. Authorizes disposal of surrendered firearms that have not been or cannot be returned as specified.
Sets the duration of an ex parte ERPO to be from its effective date to the date the hearing is held, or if a hearing is not held or a continuance not granted, no more than 10 days from its issuance. Requires a full ERPO to be effective for a fixed period of time not to exceed one year. Provides for renewal of any ERPO by the petitioner one or more times prior to its expiration, providing the initial requirements are satisfied and there has been no material change in the circumstances since its issuance. Limits the granting of renewals to open court.
Details the process of terminating an ERPO, with the respondent limited to submitting one motion for termination for every 12-month period the full ERPO is in effect. Requires the court to set a hearing no sooner than 14 days and no later than 30 days from the date of service upon the petitioner. Requires the respondent to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she does not pose a danger of causing physical injury to self or others by having a firearm in his or her custody or care.
Requires the clerk to provide same day notice of ERPO issuance to the sheriff. Requires the sheriff to promptly enter the ERPO into the National Crime Information Center registry; update the orders in the registry upon modification, termination, renewal, or dismissal; and to provide 24/7 access to the orders to the courts. Also requires a copy of the ERPO be issued promptly to and retained by the municipal police department. Provides for notice to the respondent if he or she was not present when the ERPO was issued, and for notice to third parties where applicable.
Makes it a Class A1 misdemeanor for any person to possess, purchase, or receive, or attempt to possess, purchase, or receive, a firearm, ammunition, or permits to purchase or carry concealed firearms for so long as an effective ERPO is entered against that person.
Makes it a Class 2 misdemeanor for any person to knowingly make a false statement when petitioning for an ERPO, and for any person to knowingly make a false statement to law enforcement that an ERPO remains in effect.
Clarifies that the remedies provided in new GS Chapter 50E are not exclusive, and that the Chapter does not affect the ability of law enforcement to remove a firearm or permit from any person, or conduct any search and seizure for firearms, pursuant to other lawful authority.
Specifies that Chapter 50E does not impose any criminal or civil liability on any person or entity for acts or omissions related to obtaining an ERPO.
Amends GS Chapter 15C, providing for the inclusion of petitioners for an ERPO in the Address Confidentiality Program. Makes conforming changes.
Amends GS 14-415.4 to require a court to deny a petition to restore the petitioner's firearm rights if the court finds an ex parte or full ERPO has been issued pursuant to GS Chapter 50E or a similar out-of-state or federal order has been issued against the petitioner and the court order is still in effect.
Directs the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to develop the appropriate forms to implement the processes set out in new GS Chapter 50E.
Effective December 1, 2019.
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