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Breaking Down RI’s New Firearms Law – What You Need To Know

November 13, 2017

In response to the growing problem of domestic violence, the Rhode Island legislature enacted the Protect Rhode Island Families Act, which requires people served with restraining orders and convicted of domestic violence offenses to surrender their firearms.

The Protect Rhode Island Families Act amends Section 8-8.1-3 of the Domestic Assault chapter to allow a court to grant a protective order requiring a defendant to surrender his or her firearms within 72 hours of being served with a restraining order.

Subsection (a)(4) now allows a court to order “the defendant to surrender physical possession of all firearms in his or her possession, care, custody, or control and shall further order a person restrained not to purchase or receive, or attempt to purchase or receive, any firearms while the protective order is in effect. The defendant shall surrender said firearms within twenty-four (24) hours of notice of the protective order to the Rhode Island state police or local police department or to a federally licensed firearms dealer.”

Next, the Act requires that:

“A person ordered to surrender possession of any firearm(s) pursuant to this section shall, within seventy-two (72) hours after being served with the order, either:

  1. File with the court a receipt showing the firearm(s) was physically surrendered to the Rhode Island state police or local police department, or to a federally licensed firearm dealer; or
  1.  Attest to the court that, at the time of the order, the person had no firearms in his or her immediate physical possession or control, or subject to his or her immediate physical possession or control, and that the person, at the time of the attestation, has no firearms in his or her immediate physical possession or control or subject to his or her immediate physical possession or control.

After notice to the defendant, a hearing must be held within fifteen days of the surrender of the defendant’s firearms, where the court may further order the defendant not to attempt to purchase or receive any firearms while the order is in effect.

After the protective order expires or is terminated and the defendant’s firearms rights are restored, who pays for the storage fee?

The Act prohibits the state police and local police departments from charging a storage fee, but if the defendant chooses to store his or her firearms with a private firearms dealer, the defendant is responsible to pay storage fees to the dealer.

Any violation of a protective order under this chapter of which the defendant has actual notice shall be a misdemeanor that shall be punished by a fine of no more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

The Protect Rhode Island Families Act also adds a new law, R.I.G.L. § 11-47-5.4, which requires people convicted of domestic violence offenses to surrender their firearms into storage until the sentence of conviction has been completed.  This puts Rhode Island law on par with the federal law and the laws of many states. 

If you believe you may be subject to a civil restraining order that would prohibit you from purchasing or maintaining your firearms, or you are suspected of or charged with a domestic violence offense in criminal court, contact a criminal defense attorney to understand how this new law may apply to your case.

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