Emergency Risk Protection Orders
The Extreme Risk Protective Order Act of 2018 (referred to as “ERPO") provides procedures through which select people (the "petitioner") may apply for an Extreme Risk Protective Order ("ERPO") against a person (the "respondent”) who poses a danger of causing bodily injury to self or others by possessing or purchasing a firearm.
New Jersey's “Red Flag” ERPO Law
Those procedures govern both the temporary risk protective order (referred to as "TERPO") and the final risk protective order (referred to as "FERPO"). An ERPO prohibits the respondent from possessing or purchasing a firearm or ammunition and from holding a firearms purchaser identification card, permit to purchase a handgun and permit to carry a handgun.
An ERPO is a civil court order that is issued by a judge upon consideration of the evidence related to a number of factors, prompted by a petition by a family or household member or law enforcement officer.
Who May File for an ERPO?
The ERPO Act specifies that only a "petitioner" defined as a family or household member of the respondent, or a law enforcement officer acting in their official capacity, may file a petition for an ERPO.“Family or household member" means a spouse, domestic partner as defined in N.J.S.A.26:8A-3, a partner in a civil union couple as defined in N.J.S.A. 37:1-29, or former spouse, former domestic partner, or former partner in a civil union couple, or any other person who is a present household member or was at any time a household member; a person with whom the respondent has a child in common, or with whom the respondent anticipates having a child in common if one of the parties is pregnant, or a current or former dating partner.
The Process of Filing for a TERPO by a Family or Household Member
Except when filing for a TERPO against a law enforcement officer, a family or household member may file a petition for a TERPO at the Superior Court, or at a State, county, or municipal law enforcement agency. N.J.S.A. 2C:58-23(a). The petitioner shall not be charged a fee to file the petition. N.J.S.A. 20:58-23(c).
Filing for a TERPO by a Law Enforcement Office
The TERPO petition must be filed in a law enforcement agency or court vicinage located in the same county where the respondent resides. If the respondent resides out of state, it must be filed in a law enforcement agency or court vicinage in the same county where the petitioner resides.The Act provides that a law enforcement officer may file a petition for a TERPO. N.J.S.A. 20:58-21, -23(a). If an officer, in the course of their own investigation and policing, or from information received from a non-family or household member, has probable cause to believe that the respondent poses an immediate and present danger of causing bodily injury to self or others by having custody or control of, owning, possessing, purchasing, or receiving a firearm, the officer shall file a petition for a TERPO.
Under the Act, a court would consider evidence presented whether the respondent:
- has a history of threats or acts of violence;
- has a history of use (including attempted and threatened use) of physical force;
- is subject to or violated any protective orders;
- has been arrested, charged, or convicted of any violent indictable crime or disorderly-persons offense, stalking offense, or domestic violence offense;
- has been charged with crimes of animal cruelty;
- has a history of substance abuse;
- or has recently acquired a firearm or ammunition.