The Colorado purple flag legislation is a yr previous. Right here's who's utilizing the legislation to confiscate weapons – and why. – The Denver Put up
The 61-year-old Douglas County man claimed to be an ex-special forces sniper who had worked for the CIA.
He called the police home more than once and told them he was shot while checking the mail or he woke up to find silencers in his bedroom. He bragged about having shot someone and threatened others. He had no conversations with anyone and routinely wore a tactical vest marked “Deputy Sheriff” while stopping citizens to ask if everything was okay.
And he owned at least 59 guns and 50,000 rounds of ammunition, Douglas County Sheriff's investigators found out in June this year when they were given an extreme risk warrant to keep the man's guns safe for himself and the safety of others among Colorado's now 1 year old Red Confiscate Flag Act.
In its first year, the controversial law has proven to be a useful tool for law enforcement, and fears of widespread abuse have largely not been realized, according to a review by the Denver Post. The majority of standing orders issued by judges to protect against extreme risks have been requested by law enforcement, and even sheriffs who raised concerns about the law have used it to dispel potential dangers.
"It has been used very appropriately and very sparingly across the state," said Tony Spurlock, Douglas County sheriff.
At least 112 extreme risk orders were filed in 2020 under the Colorado Red Flag Act. In 46 cases, judges issued permanent protection warrants requiring individuals to surrender their weapons to the authorities or to prohibit weapons purchases for 364 days, based on data from the Colorado Judicial Department. That is less than the 170 petitions per year that legislators estimate are filed.
The law is the result of a lengthy and highly competitive legislative process that has resulted in marathon hearings and heated debates between lawmakers and law enforcement agencies. Gun rights groups fearing the law would be abused filed lawsuits.
Spurlock's support for the bill – the Act to Prevent Violence against Deputy Zackari Parrish III, named after one of his MPs killed in a shootout – sparked an attempt to recall him. But the lawsuits failed and the recall efforts failed.
A year later, data shows that most people who were forced to give up their guns for a year were faced with either mental health problems or substance abuse, according to the Post's review of petitions that identified such issues in 36 of the 46 documented cases were cases with longstanding orders.
"We think it's an effective tool," said Lt. Adam Hernandez of the Denver Police Department. "We believe this particular piece of legislation has prevented some from committing suicide and has helped prevent violent crimes against members of our community."
Still alive today
After the third time an Arapahoe County man made serious threats to kill himself, his wife sought an extreme risk order to prevent him from legally buying another weapon.
The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect her husband's privacy, said law enforcement officers had already put psychological stress on her husband, but the temporary nature of these cases did not keep him safe for long.
Her husband agreed it was a good idea and did not fight the protection order. His wife credits the law as part of the reason he's still alive.
"He kept coming up with different ways to get a gun, so the red flag law was our only recourse," she said.
Just over a third of the standing orders were issued after people threatened suicide, and another third after people threatened to kill others, according to court records. The remainder included cases of suicide and death threats, or cases where the reckless use of a weapon was considered likely.
Lakewood police in April seized a rifle and pistol from a 47-year-old veteran who threatened to shoot himself and police officers. In September, a Boulder man nearing his 21st birthday was prevented from buying guns after posting online that he was going to buy an AR-15 and kill women in a sorority house. Denver Police took two guns from a 37-year-old man who had committed suicide.
"I have no doubt that these (orders) we received were in dire straits and could have been a tragedy for either yourself or a family member," Spurlock said of three cases in his jurisdiction. “And these people are still alive today. These people function in our society and work with the system together. You are under treatment. "
Even law enforcement agencies in counties that passed resolutions against the law ended up using it.
Be it further resolved that the board, in coordination with the Archuleta County Sheriff, undertake to oppose the law in its current and subsequent forms to the Second Amendment rights of all legal gun owners in the state, not just Archuleta County protect." The Board of County Commissioners stated in a resolution dated April 2, 2019.
Nine months later, an Archuleta County sheriff's deputy filed for an Extreme Risk Protection Order against a woman who said she was killing herself and killing law enforcement. A judge gave the order. Archuleta County Sheriff Rich Valdez did not return an email or phone call asking for an interview.
Another sheriff, who previously said the law violated people's constitutional rights but later filed a motion to order extreme risk protection, said the law did its job if properly applied. Dolores County Sheriff Don Wilson said he found the application and judicial process strict and straightforward.
"It's good when used properly," said Wilson. "But it can also be used maliciously."
Almost all of the 46 cases where a judge issued a 364-day protection order were initiated by law enforcement officials, according to the Colorado Department of Justice. Petitions filed by family members ended up with long-term orders only six times, the records show. Most of the petitions that were denied were made by family members, roommates and other lay people, the data shows.
This likely reflects law enforcement's credibility and familiarity with the judicial system, said Steven Visser, a Colorado Springs attorney.
“They probably know what to put in there, like when they ask for a search warrant, they know what terms to use, and they know what to bring in terms of evidence to have a better chance of going forward allowed, ”he said.
The Denver Police Department, who filed the most petitions from any law enforcement agency, have not found any cases of anyone refusing to surrender their guns, Hernandez said. Denver police investigated 62 situations that might have warranted extreme risk coverage and filed 22 petitions for one-year orders, all of which were approved by a judge.
"We're not going in there with a tremendous amount of force or force, we're going in there to keep people safe, to protect our community," said Hernandez.
Groundless claims rejected
A review of 30 rejected petitions found that judges often found that applicants failed to make credible threats, were too vague, made procedural errors, or did not provide all the required information.
A woman in Denver filed 10 petitions against three people in one day. All were fired when the woman failed to appear in court or failed to fill out missing information on the petitions.
According to Spurlock, unsubstantiated petitions rejected by judges show that the courts are effective in protecting people from false complaints. In February, an inmate in Weld County Jail filed a petition against Sheriff Steve Reams, but it was immediately dismissed. Another woman, who filed a petition asking to have guns taken from a Colorado State University police officer, is charged with perjury lying at her request.
"The system worked," said Spurlock. “There have been some cases where citizens have submitted false cases. The court examined the law and did not issue it. "
Keith Coleman, an attorney in Greeley, said he was representing a man on an extreme risk case that appeared to have been filed as harassment. In this case, a judge issued an initial temporary protection warrant after a woman filed a petition claiming the man had a gun and threatened to kill her.
The man was ordered to flip his gun – but he didn't have one, Coleman said. Within 14 days, the judge held a hearing and found that there was no need for a permanent order and the case was closed.
Coleman represented the man as a court-appointed attorney, which means Coleman was paid by the state judiciary, not the man who once appeared in court.
Last year, 27 court-appointed attorneys such as Coleman represented clients in 68 extreme risk coverage cases that cost the state judiciary about $ 80,300, said Jon Sarche, a department spokesman.
Lawyers who have handled red flag cases last year said the process went relatively smoothly – with some hiccups from the novel coronavirus pandemic – but that there are still some unknowns in the process simply because it is so new .
Matthew Pring, a lawyer who has done legal work, said it was difficult to get in touch with clients quickly.
"One of the harder things, especially with COVID and everything that's going on, is getting your client under control when they're on a 72-hour psychiatric hold or under some other engagement process," he said, adding Add later: The law is designed to provide as much trial as possible in a short time, essentially getting the defender into trouble, but you have to be in a short time frame. "
Another woman, who spoke to The Post on condition of anonymity to protect her family's privacy, and who applied for and received an Extreme Risk Protection Order last year, said she found the process helpful and gave her an opportunity gave to deal with the insecurity of their relatives behavior.
"It's a difficult conversation with someone," she said, "and trying to have the conversation with someone who is not receptive just makes it a little easier."