A Vermont judge can issue an extreme risk protection order against someone who poses an imminent and extreme risk of harming themselves or others to prohibit them from buying, having, or receiving firearms or explosives. This is called an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO).
- The person asking for an ERPO is the petitioner.
- The person the request is filed against is the respondent.
The petitioner can be a State’s Attorney, the Office of the Attorney General, or a family or household member of the respondent.
A household member includes:
- the respondent's current sexual partner.
- someone the respondent is dating.
- someone the respondent lives with.
There is no cost to ask for an ERPO.
A petitioner doesn't have to hire an attorney to ask for an ERPO, but it may be helpful to talk to one. See the Finding Legal Help web page for information about the ways to get the help of an attorney.
Filing the ERPO request
A request for an ERPO is filed in the Family Division of the Superior Court. You can ask for an ERPO at any time, including nights, weekends, and holidays. Call 800-540-9990 for help with an emergency request after court business hours, which are Monday - Friday, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm.
Is this the right kind of protective order for you?
There are several different types of protective orders in Vermont. The main difference is the relationship between the parties, what kind of behavior has occurred, and the court division in which the request is filed. The process also varies.
Not sure which type of protective order is right for your situation? The Protective Orders web page provides information about each type of protective order, who may ask for one, and what kind of protections an order could provide.
An ERPO temporarily restricts the respondent's access to firearms and explosives. While the order is in effect, the respondent may not purchase, possess, or receive firearms or explosives, or have them in their custody or control.
The respondent must immediately turn over (also referred to as relinquish, surrender, or transfer) their firearms.
An ERPO doesn't provide the same protections as a Relief From Abuse order.
An ERPO is different from a Relief From Abuse (RFA) order. An RFA order can order someone not to abuse a person, contact them, and order them to stay away from a person or a place. An ERPO does not. See the Relief from Abuse web page for more information about the RFA process.
The petitioner must give the court information showing at least one of the following:
- The respondent caused or tried to cause bodily harm to someone,
- The respondent's actions or threats have caused others to be afraid of being physically harmed,
- The respondent's actions or inaction present a danger to those under their care, or
- The respondent has threatened or attempted suicide or serious bodily harm.
At the temporary order stage, the standard of proof for a family or household member petitioner is higher than for a State's Attorney or Attorney General petitioner. Standard of proof is a legal term that means how much evidence is needed to prove something in court.
- The standard of proof for a family or household member petitioner is clear and convincing evidence. This means the evidence is "highly and substantially" more likely to be true than not.
- The standard of proof for a State's Attorney or Attorney General is a preponderance of the evidence, which means it's more likely than not to be true.
The standard of proof at the hearing stage is preponderance of the evidence.
Step 1 - Fill out the forms in the Forms section at the bottom of this web page.
Step 2 - File the forms with the court.
A request for an ERPO can be filed at any time, including nights, weekends, and holidays. Call 800-540-9990 for help with an emergency request after court business hours, which are Monday - Friday, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm.
See the Filing Procedures web page for information about filing options.
Step 3 - A judge will review the forms and decide whether to issue a temporary order based solely on the documents filed. A temporary order will be granted or denied without a hearing and without notice to the respondent.
Step 4 - If the temporary order is granted, the State's Attorney of the county in which the petition was filed becomes the petitioner in the case. While the family or household member is no longer a party in the case, they will be required to testify at the hearing.
Step 5 - The temporary order and hearing notice are given to the petitioner and to law enforcement. Law enforcement gives the order and hearing notice to (serves) the respondent. The temporary order is not in effect until it is served on the respondent.
Step 6 - Once the respondent is served, they must immediately turn over their firearms to the law enforcement officer.
Step 7 - A hearing will be scheduled within 14 days. At the hearing, the judge will hear evidence and decide whether to grant a final order or to dismiss the order. The hearing may be held in person or remotely.
If the judge grants the final order, the respondent must follow its terms. The final order will be effective for a specific amount of time. The longest it can be effective is six months.
An ERPO is a civil order. It doesn't mean the respondent committed a crime or has a criminal record. If the respondent doesn't follow the requirements of the order, they can be charged with a crime.
The temporary and final ERPO will require the respondent to immediately turn over their firearms.
- Once the respondent is given the temporary order, they must turn over their firearms to the law enforcement officer who serves the order.
- The final order will specify whether the firearms must be turned over to law enforcement, a federally licensed firearms dealer, or to a third party.
Relinquishment to a third party
At the hearing, the respondent may ask to turn over their firearms to a third party, such as a friend or family member by filing a motion to permit a third party to hold firearms. The respondent can use the Miscellaneous Motion form (400-00830) to make the request. The form is in the Forms section at the bottom of this web page.
Before the hearing, the proposed third party must fill out a Statement Upon Receipt of Firearms form (400-00152A). The form is in the Forms section at the bottom of this web page.
The judge may require the third party to be at the hearing, and may require them to undergo a background check.
Once the ERPO expires, the respondent can ask to have their firearms returned to them by filing a motion for order to release firearms with the court. The respondent can use the Miscellaneous Motion form (400-00830) to make the request. The form is in the Forms section at the bottom of this web page.
Responsibility of third party holding firearms
A third party who holds the firearms for the respondent:
- must securely store the firearms.
- must not allow the respondent to obtain possession of them without a court order.
Additional responsibilities are described in the Statement Upon Receipt of Firearms form (400-00152A). The form is in the Forms section at the bottom of this web page.
The petitioner can ask to extend an ERPO by filing a Motion to Terminate/Renew Extreme Risk Protection Order form (400-00303) before its expiration date. The form is in the Forms section at the bottom of this web page.
You can ask for an ERPO at any time, including nights, weekends, and holidays.
Call 800-540-9990 for help with an emergency request after court business hours, which are Monday - Friday, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm.