An Extreme Risk Protection Order is issued by a district court. It directs a person – the Respondent – to temporarily relinquish their firearms for a fixed period of time while they are struggling with a mental health crisis. Someone familiar with the Respondent – the Reporting Party – provides information to a law enforcement officer or a district attorney – the Petitioner –  who brings the case to court. Legal definitions

In New Mexico, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Law clearly states that family members, employers and school officials are authorized to serve as Reporting Parties. However, the law uses the word “includes” before this list. When a statute puts the word “includes” or “including” before a list, it means “includes, but is not limited to.” The New Mexico Attorney General has issued an opinion that the language of the statute means that anyone can serve as a Reporting Party. New Mexico appellate courts have consistently agreed with this interpretation in other contexts, but no court has yet issued an opinion in the context of an Extreme Risk Protection Order. Attorney General’s Opinion

A “family member” in this law is the same as a family member in the Domestic Violence Protection Act. It means a spouse, former spouse, parent, present or former stepparent, present or former parent-in-law, grandparent, grandparent-in-law, co-parent of a child, child, or person with whom a respondent has or had a continuing personal relationship (a former or current girlfriend or boyfriend). 
No. The process is simple. If you think you might want to file for an Extreme Risk Protection Order, contact your local law enforcement agency or district attorney and they will walk you through the process.

See Flow Chart

STEP 1. The Reporting Party reports their concerns to a law enforcement officer or the district attorney.

STEP 2. Law enforcement officer or the district attorney helps the Reporting Party complete a form affidavit.  Affidavit form

STEP 3. The Law enforcement officer or the district attorney prepares a form petition based on the information in the affidavit.  Petition form

STEP 4. The Law enforcement officer or the district attorney prepares a draft order for the court to sign. Order form

STEP 5. The law enforcement officer or the district attorney files the affidavit, the petition, and the draft order in the district court where the Respondent resides. Instructions

STEP 6. The court reviews the affidavit and the petition ex parte (without a hearing) and either signs an order granting the request for the Temporary Order or denies it. If the court denies the request for a Temporary Order the case is over.  Denial form 

STEP 7. If the court grants the request for a Temporary Order, the respondent relinquishes all of their firearms to law enforcement or to a Federal Firearm Licensee (FFL) within 48 hours or sooner, if ordered by the court. 

STEP 8. If the court grants the Temporary order, the court sets a hearing on the One-Year Order within 10 days.

STEP 9. If the respondent wants more time to prepare for the hearing, they can file a request for a later date. The Petitioner cannot request an extension of time. Request to postpone hearing forms

STEP 10. The court gives the Petitioner (law enforcement or the district attorney) and the Respondent notice of the hearing. 

STEP 11. The Petitioner contacts the Reporting Party and prepares them to testify at the hearing on the One-Year order.

STEP 12. After the hearing, the court rules on the motion for a One-Year order. If the court grants the petition and has not already received a copy of the relinquishment receipt based on the Temporary Order, the court orders the Respondent to relinquish all firearms to a law enforcement agency within 48 hours or sooner. Final order forms

No. The Reporting Party must sign the affidavit that starts the process. A Reporting Party can keep their address confidential. If the Reporting Party wants this protection, they must tell the Petitioner to check that box on the affidavit before filing it with the court. The Reporting Party does not have to appear in court for the Temporary Protection Order. All Temporary Orders are decided by the judge based solely on the documents filed. The Reporting party will have to testify at the hearing on the One-Year Order usually scheduled ten days later. Many courts are still holding virtual hearings telephonically so that witnesses who have access to Zoom do not have to appear in person at the courthouse. Ask the district attorney in your judicial district for more information.

Most people attempt suicide impulsively during acute periods of mental crisis, typically using whatever means is most readily available. People are at least 40 times more likely to die if they attempt suicide with a gun instead of other common methods. This is why firearms account for five percent of life-threatening suicide attempts in the United States but over 50 percent of suicide deaths. This is also why states with unrestricted access to guns suffer elevated suicide rates. The research is clear that keeping firearms out of the hands of people when they are in a mental health crisis saves lives. Learn more 

Yes. Many states use different names to describe their firearm relinquishment law. In New Mexico the law is known as the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Act, sometime referred to as ERPO or ERFPO. The term “red flag law” is the generic term used to describe these laws. 

Even though judges must advise the respondents they place under a Domestic violence Order of Protection that they are prohibited from possessing firearms, many abusers ignore the warning. And even though judges have the authority to order domestic violence abusers to relinquish their firearms, many judges are reluctant to do so. Getting a domestic violence protective order can sometimes make a bad situation worse by actually triggering a violent reaction by the abuser. If a domestic violence abuser becomes more angry or withdrawn or turns to alcohol of drugs after being served with a domestic violence order of protection, consider filing for an Extreme Risk Protection Order. Help with domestic violence issues 

No. The policies of the New Mexico Board of Counseling and Therapy Practice clearly state that disclosure of confidential information is ethical “[w]hen the counselor or therapist judges that disclosure is necessary to protect against a clear and substantial risk of imminent serious harm being inflicted by the client on the client or another person(s). 

There have been reports of tragic incidents where police officers have resorted to violence when interacting with a person in a mental health crisis. But there are steps a family can take to prevent this. If you have any fears or concerns about seeking an Extreme Risk Protection Order, you can contact New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence to discuss your situation. Contact NMPGV. You can also find free help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling 988, the New Mexico Crisis and Access Line (855-662-7474), or Peer to Peer Warmline (855-266-7100). An Extreme Risk Protection Order is a valuable tool that can help keep your loved one alive. 

Yes. A family member who starts the process to get an Extreme Risk Protection Order can always back out of the process. However, if that happens, the law enforcement officer might try to become the Reporting Party. To better understand your options, talk to your local law enforcement agency or district attorney’s office about their policy before you provide any identifying information.

Men who own handguns are eight times more likely to die of gun suicides than men who don’t own handguns, and women who own handguns are 35 times more likely than women who don’t. Clearly, access to a firearm increases the seriousness of suicidal ideation. Because the risk of suicide by firearm is so high, it is better to prevent a tragedy than to respond to one.

Here are some warning signs that someone may be at immediate risk for attempting suicide:

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Putting affairs in order, such as making a will
  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
  • Talking or thinking about death often

Other serious warning signs that someone may be at risk for attempting suicide include:

  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Making a plan or looking for ways to kill themselves, such as searching for lethal methods online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling great guilt or shame
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Changing eating or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

The research is clear – talking about suicide reduces rather than increase suicidal ideation. 

The law does not list mental health disorders. Some high-risk illnesses to look out for include depression, substance use disorders, psychosis, anxiety, personality-, eating-, and trauma-related disorders, and organic disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. The overwhelming majority of people with mental health disorders are not dangerous to themselves or others. The mere fact that someone has a mental health diagnosis does not mean that they shouldn’t have access to their firearms. In order to apply for an Extreme Risk Order of Protection, you must have some credible evidence that demonstrates that the harm you fear is both serious and imminent. 

The Reporting Party can contact both their local law enforcement agency and their local district attorneys’ office before deciding which agency is the right fit for them. The Reporting Party then can choose who they want to work with. People who are not listed in the statute, such as law enforcement officers or mental health professionals should always ask their local district attorney’s office to serve as the Petitioner so that those lawyers can set up the case for a possible appeal.

No. There are no filing fees or other court costs imposed for petitioning for an Extreme Risk Protection Order.

It is highly unlikely that a Reporting Party will need the help of an attorney before filing an Extreme Risk Protection Order. If you have legal concerns, you can discuss them with the district attorney’s office. But there is nothing to prevent a Reporting Party from speaking to a private lawyer before acting. The court will not assign a free lawyer in these cases.

Yes. In New Mexico, even though a person must be 18 years of age to legally purchase a firearm, a child of any age may legally possess a firearm on property controlled by the child’s parent, grandparent, or legal guardian. Obtaining an Extreme Risk Protection Order is the safest way to ensure that a child experiencing a mental health crisis doesn’t have access to a firearm. Some courts will assign a case involving a child to the family court and will maintain the child’s confidentiality. Other courts will hold the hearing in civil court. Ask your local district attorney which court is used in your judicial district.

Suicide attempts are usually impulsive responses to acute crises. People who reach for guns in these moments of crisis are unlikely to survive. Guns are used in only five percent of suicide attempts, but because guns are uniquely lethal, they are responsible for over 50 percent of suicide deaths. When people do not have access to firearms the rate of suicide by other means does not increase.

There are many organizations in New Mexico that can help a family dealing with mental illness. A good place to start is NAMI New Mexico. Get help

Before the year lapses, you can petition the court to extend the relinquishment order. You will need to tell the judge the specific reasons why the order should be renewed.

No. The law enforcement officer preparing the affidavit with you can show you pictures of different types of firearms that might help you identify the firearms in your case. If you still cannot fill in that portion of the affidavit, leave it blank.

New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence also provides training free of charge to law enforcement and community members. To set up a free 45-minute Zoom training program. Contact NMPGV

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