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Virginia allows an attorney for the Commonwealth or a law enforcement officer to petition a court for a “substantial risk order” against a person. An order of this type prohibits the person who is subject to it from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm for the duration of the order.1 The petition for the order must be submitted under oath and supported by an affidavit.2

The court may issue an ex parte emergency substantial risk order upon a finding that there is probable cause to believe that the person poses a substantial risk of personal injury to himself or others in the near future by such person’s possession or acquisition of a firearm.3 Upon service of an emergency order, the person must be given an opportunity to voluntarily relinquish firearms. The law enforcement agency that served the order must make “due return” to the court, including an inventory of the surrendered firearms.4

An emergency order expires on the fourteenth day after it was issued.5 No later than that day, the court must hold a hearing to determine whether a substantial risk order should be entered.6 The person must be given notice of the hearing. An attorney for the Commonwealth must represent the interests of the Commonwealth. The court must issue the order if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person poses a substantial risk of personal injury to himself or to other individuals in the near future by such person’s possession or acquisition of a firearm. The court must specify the duration of the order, which can be up to 180 days. The person who is subject to the order may file one motion to dissolve the order during that time.7 At the end of that period, an attorney for the Commonwealth or a law enforcement officer may seek a hearing for an extension of the order.

The law provides a procedure for a person who has voluntarily surrendered firearms to law enforcement pursuant to a substantial risk order to transfer those firearms to someone else.8 The law also provides for reporting of these orders to the Virginia Criminal Information Network,9 and for the return of firearms when these orders expire.10

 See our Extreme Risk Protection Orders policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue. 

  1. See Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.1:6 (as enacted by 2020 Va. H.B. 674, 2020 Va. S.B. 240).[]
  2. Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-152.13.[]
  3. Id.[]
  4. Id.[]
  5. Id.[]
  6. Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-152.14.[]
  7. Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-152.14(C).[]
  8. Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-152.14(D).[]
  9. Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-152.14(E). See also Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-387.3.[]
  10. Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-152.15.[]