Connecticut Law Bites
What is a firearms safety warrant in Connecticut?
May 13 2019
By: John Drapp
A Firearms Safety Warrant, sometimes referred to as a Risk Warrant, is a court order that permits a police officer to search for and seize firearms or ammunition from a person that may be a danger to himself or others. This type of order is authorized by section 29-38c of the Connecticut General Statutes.
In order for a Firearms Safety Warrant to be issued, a prosecutor or two police officers must make a complaint to a Superior Court Judge and state under oath that they have probable cause to believe that “(1) a person poses a risk of imminent personal injury to himself or herself or to other individuals, (2) such person possesses one or more firearms, and (3) such firearm or firearms are within or upon any place, thing or person . . . .” Before making such a complaint, the prosecutor or police officers must conduct an independent investigation and determine that probable cause exists and that no reasonable alternative is available to prevent a person from causing harm to himself or herself or others with a firearm.
The judge reviewing the complaint must consider the following:
(1) recent threats or acts of violence by the person towards another person;
(2) recent threats or acts of violence by the person towards himself or herself; and
(3) recent acts of animal cruelty by the person.
In deciding whether such acts by the person establish probable cause to believe that the person is a danger to himself or herself or others, the judge may consider the following:
(1) whether the person has recklessly used, displayed or brandished a firearm;
(2) whether the person has a history of using, attempting to use, or threatening to use physical force against other people;
(3) whether the person has ever been involuntarily confined to a psychiatric hospital; and
(4) whether such person illegally uses controlled substances or abuses alcohol.
This list is not exhaustive, and a judge may consider other relevant facts in making a probable cause determination.
If the judge reviewing the warrant is convinced that there is probate cause, the judge “shall issue a warrant naming or describing the person, place or thing to be searched.” The warrant will be directed to a police officer who must, within a reasonable time, search the person, place or thing named for any firearms or ammunition.
Once the warrant is executed, the police officer must file with the court by the next business day a copy of the warrant as well as an inventory of any firearms or ammunition seized.
After the warrant is executed, a hearing must be held within fourteen days to determine whether any firearms or ammunition seized should be returned to the person from whom they were seized or if those items should continue to be held by the state. At the hearing, the prosecutor has the burden of proving all the necessary facts by clear and convincing evidence.
If the prosecutor successfully meets that burden and a judge finds by clear and convincing evidence that “the person poses a risk of imminent physical injury to himself or herself or to other individuals,” the court may order that the any firearms or ammunition seized be held by the state for no more than one year. Otherwise, the court must order that the seized firearms or ammunition be returned to the person. In addition, the court must give notice of a finding that the person has been found to be a danger to himself or others to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS). DHMAS may then take such action as it deems appropriate under the statutory provisions governing commitments to psychiatric hospitals.
If the court orders that any seized firearms or ammunition are to be held by the state, the person from whom those items were seized, or his or her legal representative, may transfer the items to a person who is eligible to possess them under applicable state and federal law.
As always, this information is provided for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is also subject to the terms of our disclaimer.
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