In 2018, Vermont enacted a limited Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law, which authorizes certain prosecutors—either State’s Attorneys or the Office of the state Attorney General—to petition a court for a civil order preventing a dangerous person from accessing firearms for up to six months.
In order to obtain an ERPO, an eligible petitioner must file a petition with the superior court either in the county where the petitioner is located, the county where the respondent resides, or the county where the events giving rise to the petition have occurred. The petition must be supported by a sworn affidavit including specific facts to support the petitioner’s allegations that the respondent poses an extreme risk of causing harm to himself or herself or another person by purchasing, possessing, or receiving a dangerous weapon or by having a dangerous weapon within the respondent’s custody or control.
In most cases, the court is required to hold a hearing on the matter within 14 days after the petition was filed, after providing notice to the respondent.
If, after the hearing, the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent poses an extreme risk of causing harm to self or others by purchasing, possessing, receiving, or having custody or control of a firearm, the court will issue an ERPO prohibiting the respondent from possessing or acquiring firearms for up to six months.
In emergency cases, a State’s Attorney or the Attorney General may instead request that the court issue an ex parte temporary ERPO, prior to providing notice and holding a hearing. In such cases, the court will issue an ex parte ERPO if it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that, at the time the ERPO is requested, the respondent poses an imminent and extreme risk of causing harm to self or others by purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm or by having a firearm within his or her custody or control. The temporary ERPO may generally only be in effect for up to 14 days, before the court holds a full hearing “as soon as reasonably possible” within that timeframe regarding whether to grant a longer ERPO.
Unless the court orders an alternate procedure for relinquishment, people subject to ERPOs are required to relinquish their firearms immediately upon receiving notice of the order, either to a law enforcement agency or a federally licensed firearms dealer. The law provides standard procedures for a law enforcement agency, firearms dealer, or court-approved third party to follow while receiving and keeping the respondent’s relinquished firearms.
This law provides a standard process for respondents to request that an ERPO be lifted and for petitioners to request that the ERPO be renewed and extended by up to six months.
Vermont makes it a crime to file a petition for an ERPO, or a supporting affidavit, knowing the information in the petition or affidavit is false, or with intent to harass the respondent.
For more information about ERPO laws, visit our Extreme Risk Protection Orders policy page.