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Letter to the FNP Editor: Extreme Risk Protective Orders

Blaine A. Hoffmann, Legal Director at Heartly House, recently wrote this letter to the editor of the Frederick News-Post. We wanted to share it with our readers so that they are aware of the possibility of obtaining an Extreme Risk Protective Order.

Regarding the March 25 article “Sheriff’s office identifies Thurmont man killed in police-involved shooting,” a new law could have prevented the incident. Many residents of Frederick County are unaware of Maryland’s extreme risk protective order (ERPO) law that went into effect on Oct. 1, 2018. An ERPO can be filed against a person (the “Respondent”) who poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to self or others by having firearms. An ERPO can be granted 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An ERPO orders a respondent to surrender any firearms or ammunition to law enforcement and not purchase or possess firearms or ammunition while the ERPO is in effect. If the courts are open, it may be granted by a District Court judge, and if the courts are closed by a District Court commissioner. A petition for an ERPO may be filed by a spouse; cohabitant, relative by blood, marriage, or adoption; person with child(ren) in common with the respondent; current dating or intimate partner; current or former legal guardian; law enforcement officer; or medical professional who has examined the respondent (this includes a physician, psychologist, clinical social worker, licensed clinical professional counselor, clinical nurse specialist in psychiatric and mental health nursing, psychiatric nurse practitioner, licensed clinical marriage or family therapist, or health officer or designee of a health officer who has examined the person).

In the Abraham Arellano incident in Thurmont, MD, the filing of an ERPO could have prevented his death. His longtime girlfriend had filed and was awarded an interim protective order for domestic violence on Sunday, March 24, by the District Court commissioner. A commissioner does not have the option to order the respondent to surrender firearms in an interim protective order. Unfortunately, Mr. Arellano therefore possessed firearms that following Monday. This past Tuesday, the hearing date for the temporary Protective Order, his firearms could have been ordered to be surrendered by a District Court judge, but in this case it was just too late.

We need to make the residents of Frederick County aware of the possibility of obtaining an ERPO. An ERPO can provide further protection beyond an interim protective order for not only a victim of domestic violence’s safety, but also for the residents of Frederick County and law enforcement. It will take a collaborative effort to educate Frederick County about this valuable tool for our protection.

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