In 2018, Illinois enacted the Firearms Restraining Order Act.1 Effective since January 1, 2019, this extreme risk law authorizes a person’s family or household members,2 as well as law enforcement officers, to petition a circuit court for a civil order preventing a person from accessing firearms for up to six months if the court finds they present a significant danger to self or others.
In order to obtain a Firearms Restraining Order (FRO), the petitioner must file an affidavit or verified petition with the circuit court in the county where the respondent resides alleging that the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to self or others in the near future by having in his or her custody or control, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm.3 In most cases, the court is required to hold a hearing on the matter within 30 days.
If the judge concludes that there is “clear and convincing evidence” that the respondent is a significant danger with firearms, the court will issue a 6-month FRO prohibiting the respondent from possessing or receiving firearms for the duration of the order. In considering whether to issue a 6-month FRO, the court is directed to consider evidence including, but not limited to, the following:
- The unlawful and reckless use, display, or brandishing of a firearm by the respondent.
- The history of use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force by the respondent against another person.
- Any prior arrest of the respondent for a felony offense.
- Evidence of the abuse of controlled substances or alcohol by the respondent.
- A recent threat of violence or act of violence by the respondent directed toward himself, herself, or another.
- A violation of an emergency order of protection issued under Section 217 of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 or Section 112A-17 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 or of an order of protection issued under Section 214 of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 or Section 112A-14 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963.
- A pattern of violent acts or violent threats, including, but not limited to, threats of violence or acts of violence by the respondent directed toward himself, herself, or another.
In especially urgent cases, petitioners can request an emergency FRO by filing an affidavit or verified pleading with the court alleging that the respondent poses an “immediate and present danger” of causing personal injury to self or others by having in his or her custody or control, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm.6 In such cases, courts are required to hold an ex parte hearing (without waiting for the respondent to receive notice of the hearing) on the same day the emergency petition is filed or the next day the court is in session.7 If the judge finds probable cause to believe the respondent poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to themselves or others with firearms, the judge is directed to issue an emergency FRO, which generally lasts for up to 14 days.8 If the court also finds probable cause that the respondent already possesses firearms, the court is also required to issue a search warrant directing a law enforcement agency to seize the respondent’s firearms. The court may, as part of that warrant, direct the law enforcement agency to search the respondent’s residence and other places where the court finds there is probable cause to believe he or she is likely to possess the firearms.9
Upon termination of the FRO, law enforcement holding any of the respondent’s weapons will return them to the respondent after performing a background check to ensure the respondent is legally permitted to possess firearms.
This law provides a standard process for respondents to request that an FRO be lifted and for petitioners to request that the FRO be renewed and extended by six months.10
Illinois also makes it a crime to knowingly present false information in an FRO petition.11
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- See 2017 IL HB 2354
- The Firearms Restraining Order Act defines eligible petitioners to include either a law enforcement officer or a “family member” of the respondent. The Act defines “family member” for these purposes to mean “a spouse, parent, child, or step-child of the respondent, any other person related by blood or present marriage to the respondent, or a person who shares a common dwelling with the respondent.” See Id., Sec. 5 (“Definitions”).
- Id., Section 40(a).
- See id., Section 40(e).
- Id., Section 35(g) and 40(h).
- Id., Section 35.
- Id., Section 35(d), (e).
- Id., Section 35(i).
- Id., Section 35(f), (f-5).
- See id., Section 45.
- See id., Section 35(c) and 40(c).