Red Flag Laws in Michigan

Michigan legislators recently introduced a series of gun violence prevention bills, which Governor Gretchen Whitmer has since signed into law. These so-called “red flag laws” go into effect on February 13, 2024. Here’s what you need to know about what the new laws mean.

What Is a Red Flag Law?

Red flag laws allow courts to temporarily take away guns from people who might pose a risk to themselves or others. These laws work by allowing family members, law enforcement officials, or other concerned individuals to ask the court to issue extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs), which can prevent a person from buying or possessing guns for a certain period.

Here’s how it works: First, someone must show evidence that a person poses a significant danger. This evidence can include recent threats of violence or proof of dangerous behavior. If the court finds the person (at this point known as the “respondent”) poses a risk after reviewing this evidence, it can issue an ERPO. An emergency order goes into effect immediately and without requiring notice to the respondent. However, a hearing must be held within 14 days to determine whether the emergency order should be made final. If it is, a final order may last up to a year, but the duration can vary depending on the situation.

Once the court issues an ERPO, law enforcement officers take away the respondent’s guns. They also prohibit the respondent from buying new ones. The respondent has the right to demand a hearing within the initial 14-day hearing. At this hearing, they can argue against the order. If they convince the court during this hearing, the court can lift the order and return their guns. They also have the right to request a subsequent hearing once every six months while under the ERPO.

Red flag laws aim to prevent tragedies like murders, mass shootings, and suicides by removing guns from potentially dangerous situations. These include situations where a dangerous person might use their guns to harm other people or where a person in distress might hurt themselves with a firearm.

Understanding Michigan’s New Red
Flag Laws

On May 22, 2023, Governor Whitmer signed into law four bills creating “red flag” rules in Michigan. These new laws represent a collective effort to address the growing concern of gun violence in the state. Here’s a summary of the new legislation:

  • Senate Bill 83 (Extreme Risk Protection Order Act): Sponsored by Senator Mallory McMorrow, this law allows specific individuals like spouses or family members to ask a court for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) against someone. If the court finds that a person poses a significant risk with a firearm, it can prohibit them from possessing or purchasing firearms while the order is active. In a statement, Senator McMorrow emphasized that this law aims to save lives and prevent gun violence, following the examples of 19 other states with similar laws.
  • House Bill 4146 (Prohibition for Pistol Licensing Under ERPO): Representative Kelly Breen sponsored this law, which stops anyone under an ERPO from getting a pistol or concealed pistol license. Representative Breen highlighted the importance of this law in saving lives by keeping firearms away from those who pose immediate threats while still respecting the rights of responsible gun owners.
  • House Bill 4147 (Amendments to the Revised Judicature Act for ERPO): Sponsored by Representative Julie Brixie, this law creates specific exemptions in the legal process when filing for an ERPO. Representative Brixie stressed the law’s role in protecting children in schools and neighborhoods as a response to public demands for action against gun violence.
  • House Bill 4148 (Inclusion in Sentencing Guidelines): This law, sponsored by Representative Stephanie A. Young, integrates the felonies outlined in Senate Bill 83 into the state’s sentencing guidelines. Representative Young emphasized that ensuring personal safety is not a partisan issue and that these laws provide essential tools to temporarily separate firearms from those at risk of causing harm.

Why Has Michigan Enacted These
New Laws?

Michigan legislators enacted these new red flag laws in the wake of a devastating mass shooting at Michigan State University (MSU) on February 13, 2023. This tragic event involved a gunman with no apparent connection to the university who opened fire in two locations on the MSU campus, killing three students and injuring five others. This incident highlighted critical security concerns and sparked a call to action to prevent similar tragedies. State lawmakers began drafting the bills within hours of the shooting. 

In a statement following the enactment of these laws, Governor Whitmer emphasized that no one in Michigan should fear gun violence at school, work, or home. She highlighted the fact that extreme risk protection orders have proven effective in reducing suicides and saving lives in other states. They have also prevented guns from falling into the hands of domestic abusers and violent criminals. She stressed the importance of taking concrete actions beyond thoughts and prayers to reduce gun violence and ensure the safety of all Michigan families and communities.

The Legal Process for Obtaining an Extreme Risk Protection Order

Once the new red flag laws go into effect, you’ll need to follow a specific legal process to obtain an ERPO in Michigan. The goal of this process is to ensure the safety of at-risk individuals while also respecting the rights of the person subject to the ERPO. Here’s a broad overview of the process:

  • Filing a Petition: A family member, law enforcement officer, or other concerned individual can start by filing a petition in court. This petition must include detailed reasons why they believe the respondent poses a risk if they have access to firearms.
  • Providing Evidence: The petitioner must present evidence to support their claim. This evidence can include recent threats of violence, proof of mental health issues, past incidents involving firearms, and any other relevant information.
  • Court Review: Next, a judge will review the petition and the provided evidence. If the judge finds that there’s enough evidence to consider the respondent a risk, they will schedule a hearing.
  • Temporary ERPO: In urgent cases, the judge might issue an emergency ERPO before the hearing. This order temporarily restricts the respondent’s access to firearms until the hearing takes place.
  • The Hearing: During the hearing, both the petitioner and the respondent can present their arguments before the court.
  • Judge’s Decision: After the hearing, the judge will decide whether to issue a final ERPO. If issued, this order will specify the duration and terms, which might include a prohibition on possessing or purchasing firearms.
  • Enforcement of the ERPO: If the court issues an ERPO, law enforcement officers will enforce the order, which might include confiscating the respondent’s firearms.
  • Expiration and Renewal: The ERPO will have an expiration date, after which it will no longer be effective. However, both the petitioner and the court have the right to request a renewal before the order expires. The respondent can ask for early termination once every six months the ERPO remains in effect.

How a Family Lawyer Can Help If You Need an Extreme Risk Protection Order in Michigan

If you believe you need an extreme risk protection order in Michigan, Lisa D. Stern can help you by:

  • Evaluating your case and determining if your situation qualifies for an ERPO
  • Gathering and organizing evidence to support your ERPO petition
  • Drafting the ERPO petition accurately and effectively
  • Filing the petition with the appropriate Michigan court
  • Representing you in court and advocating on your behalf during the hearing
  • Arguing your case and presenting strong reasoning to justify the need for an ERPO
  • Informing you about your legal rights throughout the process
  • Coordinating with police for the enforcement of the ERPO
  • Handling any necessary appeals or legal challenges
  • Seeking renewal of the ERPO if the risk continues
  • Keeping you informed about any changes in ERPO laws or procedures

Contact a Michigan Red Flag Law Attorney Today

If you have questions about Michigan’s new red flag laws or need help obtaining an ERPO, don’t hesitate to reach out to Lisa D. Stern, an experienced family lawyer who is ready to provide the guidance and support you need. Contact our office today for an initial consultation.

Contact Attorney Lisa D. Stern

For an initial consultation with attorney Lisa D. Stern, call 248-335-5000 or complete our online contact form. You can discuss every aspect of child support with the utmost candor and confidentiality.