15.215 - Seizing and Releasing Firearms

Effective Date: 06/01/2017

15.215-POL

Washington courts may order parties to surrender firearms to local law enforcement officers.  One such order is the Extreme Risk Protection Order.

At the scene of a domestic violence call, officers may encounter consenting parties requesting, for personal safety reasons, to surrender non-evidentiary firearms.

Officers may also confront circumstances at the scene of a domestic violence or crisis call where, in the officers’ judgment, removal of firearms is warranted in the interests of public safety. Such circumstances may include the parties’ demeanors, criminal history, or past use of firearms, or the illegal status of firearms based on their nature, possession or use.

The following policy addresses the procedures in accepting, storing, and releasing firearms.  See also RCW 9.41.345.

Personnel will submit evidentiary and loaded firearms per Department firearms evidentiary procedures.

1. Definitions

Consenting party – A party involved in an SPD incident who resides at the dwelling or works at the premises, and has dominion and control over areas in which surrendered firearms are located. When two or more such parties are present at the scene, all such parties should provide consent for officers to accept voluntarily surrendered firearms.

Evidentiary Firearms – Firearms that are evidence of a crime and may be required for future criminal prosecution.

Non-evidentiary firearms – A firearm that has no value as evidence. It appears to be legal to possess, and ownership of the firearm is established.

Surrendered Firearms – Firearms surrendered voluntarily or by court order and are not known to be evidence of a crime.

2. The Department Assigns Responsibility for Orders to Surrender Firearms

Follow-up units handle orders related to an SPD GO report, and Patrol handles orders related to outside agency investigations.

3. Officers Screen Firearms Seizures with a Sergeant

Officers seizing a firearm for community caretaking purposes, voluntary surrender, or court-ordered surrender will screen the incident with a sergeant

4. Officers Will Route Reports Related to Firearms Seizures to the Unit Responsible for Follow-Up, as Defined in Manual Section 15.080 – Follow-Up Unit Notification and Follow-Up Investigation

Officers will articulate the facts supporting seizing the firearm, or the voluntary surrender of the firearm, in the GO narrative.

If the firearm seizure or voluntary surrender takes place on a follow up to an SPD event already reported, the officer will complete a supplemental under the original GO number.

Officers will route the report to the unit responsible for conducting follow-up to the incident.

5. Officers Will Document Requests for Notification from Family or Household Members

Officers must include information in the GO or supplemental report on whether or not a family or household member requests notification when a firearm is returned to the individual from whom it was obtained, or to an authorized representative of that person. List the best way to contact the family or household member.

6. Follow-Up Units Coordinate Release of Seized Firearms

Upon receiving a court order to release a seized firearm, the unit responsible for follow-up to the incident will facilitate the release.  See 15.215-PRO-1 Processing a Court Order to Release a Seized Firearm.

If a person other than the respondent claims title to any firearms surrendered under an Extreme Risk Protection Order, and he or she is determined by the Department to be the lawful owner of the firearm, the follow-up unit will facilitate the release of the firearm to him or her, provided that;

- The firearm is removed from the respondent’s custody, control, or possession and the lawful owner agrees to store the firearm in a manner such that the respondent does not have access to or control of the firearm; and

- The firearm is not otherwise unlawfully possessed by the owner.

See 15.215-PRO-2 Releasing a Firearm to a Person Other Than the Respondent to an ERPO.

7. Evidence Unit Personnel Verify Notification and Minimum 72 Hour Hold

When the Evidence Unit receives a Form 1.17 releasing a firearm, employees will verify that the firearms notification portion has been completed indicating whether or not notification was required and if applicable, the date and time of notification.

If that portion has not been completed, the Evidence Unit will reject the form and return it.

Before physically releasing the firearm, Evidence Unit personnel will refer to the Form 1.17 and ensure that at least 72 hours have elapsed from the time any required notifications were made and the release of the firearm.

15.215-PRO-1 Processing a Court Order to Release a Firearm

Sergeant

1. Receives an order from the court to release a firearm to the owner.

2. Notifies any family or household member that requested notification of the release of firearms by phone call, email, or letter.

3. Contacts the owner of the firearm by letter or e-mail advising the owner to contact the Evidence Unit to start a background check.

4. Sends a Vmail 1.17 Evidence & Property Release Authorization to the Evidence Unit releasing the firearm and documenting how notifications were made.

5. Retains the court order release document in unit files.

Evidence Unit

6. Verifies that the Form 1.17 contains necessary date/time information on any required notifications for firearms release.

7. Completes a background form when contacted by the requesting firearm owner.

8. Sends the completed background form to the Public Request Unit.

Public Request Unit

9. Completes a background check and sends the results to the Evidence Unit.

Evidence Unit

10. Verifies that at least 72 hours has elapsed from the time notifications were made, according to the Form 1.17.

11 Contacts the requesting person and informs them that they may or may not receive the firearm.

15.215-PRO-2  Releasing a Firearm to a Person Other Than the Respondent to an ERPO

Upon determining that a person other than the respondent to an ERPO is the lawful owner of a seized firearm:

Sergeant

1. Contacts the owner of the firearm by letter or e-mail advising the owner to contact the Evidence Unit to start a background check.

2. Notifies any family or household member that requested notification of the release of firearms by phone call, email, or letter, specifying that the firearm is being released to a third party.

3. Sends a Vmail 1.17 Evidence & Property Release Authorization to the Evidence Unit releasing the firearm.

Evidence Unit

4. Completes a background form when contacted by the requesting firearm owner.

5. Sends the completed background form to the Public Request Unit.

Public Request Unit

6. Completes a background check and sends the results to the Evidence Unit.

Evidence Unit

7. Contacts the requesting person and informs them that they may or may not receive the firearm.

 

15.215-PRO-3 Follow-up Unit Service of an Order to Surrender a Firearm and/or CPL

Data

1. Receives the order, follows Data’s internal procedures.

2. If the order is issued under an SPD GO report, then assigns to the appropriate follow-up unit.

Follow-Up Unit Lieutenant

3. Verifies the order.

4. Evaluates the incident using the Warrant Risk Assessment Matrix (Form 12.2) and follows instructions on the matrix.

- Other factors that determine the risk associated with a court order:

- Prior assault (domestic violence and non-domestic violence)

- Prior assault or threat against children

- Prior assault against law enforcement

- Physical violence or sexual harm toward victim

- Threat to harm or kill victim

- Conviction involving violent acts

- Firearms conviction

- History of crimes involving alcohol or substance abuse

- Violence against pets

- Behaviorial crisis incidents indicative of dangerousness to self or others

5. If the follow-up unit will serve the order, attaches the completed matrix to the order and assigns the service of the order to a follow-up Unit sergeant.

Follow-Up Unit Sergeant

6. Retrieves the packet from the lieutenant and assigns a detective the responsibility of attempting to serve the packet.

Detective

7. Reads the court order thoroughly.

8. Verifies that the correct person is being served.

9. If the respondent is served in the petitioner’s presence, takes reasonable steps to ensure the petitioner’s safety. See Washburn v. Federal Way, 178 Wn.2nd 732 (2013). Documents steps taken to ensure petitioner’s safety. T

- The steps may include:

- If the order is served at the petitioner’s home, the detective will remain on-scene until the respondent departs.

- If the order is served at the respondent’s home, the detective will remain on-scene until the petitioner departs.

- If the order is served at a third party location, the detective will remain on-scene until either the respondent or the petitioner departs.

- If the petitioner has provided information that there are other firearms to which the respondent has access, the detective will obtain them or will remain with the respondent if additional assistance is needed to obtain them.

10. Attempts to determine if the respondent understands the order.

11. Gives the respondent copies of all the forms EXCEPT:

- Law Enforcement Information sheet

- Motion and Order for Waiver of Fees (if in packet)

- Return of Service sheet

12. Requests that the respondent immediately surrender all firearms in his or her custody, control, or possession and any concealed pistol license issued under RCW 9.41.070.

- If respondent is not physically located where his/her firearms and CPL are located, in order to reduce risk of lethality and harm, attempts to transport or follow respondent to retrieve the firearms.

- Explains to the respondent this is a temporary court order, restricting the firearms and provide options on court appearance to contest restrictions

- If the respondent refuses to surrender firearms and/or CPL, advises the respondent that possessing or acquiring a firearm or CPL is prohibited and that violating the order may subject the respondent to criminal and civil penalties.

- If respondent still refuses, conducts any lawfully authorized search.

13. Takes possession of all firearms, ammunition, and CPL belonging to the respondent surrendered, in plain sight, or discovered under a lawful search.

14. Provides the respondent a receipt identifying all firearms surrendered.

15. Completes Return of Service form.

- Marks all appropriate boxes for each document

- Notes on the return of service form any other information observed regarding threat of harm or risk that would be important for the court to be aware of at the hearing, such as threats made by the respondent or other behaviors or evidence observed by the officer.

- Signs and dates the form.

16a. Completes a supplemental report with the GO number of the original SPD case.

Or

16b. Draws a new GO number and writes a report titled, “Gun-Surrender-” for new or outside agency cases.

17. Uses the correct clearance code.

18. Completes a Property Report listing all firearm(s) and CPL.

- Prints a copy of the Property Report and mails/provides it to the surrendering party before the end of shift.

19. Submits the firearms to the Evidence Unit.

20. Calls Data to advise of date/time of service.

21. Makes two copies of Return of Service form.

- Sends the original to the appropriate court via scanned email. Also includes any notes.

- Mails a copy to the petitioner (if requested by the petitioner.)

22. Scans the Return of Service fom as a document to the case file and as a document for the petitioner’s and respondent’s files.

 

15.215-PRO-4 Patrol Service of an Order to Surrender a Firearm and/or CPL

Precinct Front Desk Officer

1. Logs the order into the precinct Court Order log book.

2. Hand delivers the packet to the watch lieutenant.

Watch Lieutenant

3. Verifies the order.

4. Evaluates the incident using the Warrant Risk Assessment Matrix (Form 12.2) and follows instructions on the matrix.

- Other factors that determine the risk associated with a court order:

- Prior assault (domestic violence and non-domestic violence)

- Prior assault or threat against children

- Prior assault against law enforcement

- Physical violence or sexual harm toward victim

- Threat to harm or kill victim

- Conviction involving violent acts

- Firearms conviction

- History of crimes involving alcohol or substance abuse

- Violence against pets

- Behaviorial crisis incidents indicative of dangerousness to self or others

5. If Patrol will serve the order, attaches the completed matrix to the order and assigns the service of the order to a sector sergeant.

Sector Sergeant

6. Retrieves the packet from the watch lieutenant and assigns a patrol officer the responsibility of attempting to serve the packet.

Officer

7. Reads the court order thoroughly.

8. Verifies that the correct person is being served.

9. If the respondent is served in the petitioner’s presence, takes reasonable steps to ensure the petitioner’s safety. See Washburn v. Federal Way, 178 Wn.2nd 732 (2013). Documents steps taken to ensure petitioner’s safety. T

- The steps may include:

- If the order is served at the petitioner’s home, the officer will remain on-scene until the respondent departs.

- If the order is served at the respondent’s home, the officer will remain on-scene until the petitioner departs.

- If the order is served at a third parry location, the officer will remain on-scene until either the respondent or the petitioner departs.

- If the petitioner has provided information that there are other firearms to which the respondent has access, the officer will obtain them or will remain with the respondent if additional assistance is needed to obtain them.

10. Attempts to determine if the respondent understands the order.

11. Gives the respondent copies of all the forms EXCEPT:

- Law Enforcement Information sheet

- Motion and Order for Waiver of Fees (if in packet)

- Return of Service sheet

12. Requests that the respondent immediately surrender all firearms in his or her custody, control, or possession and any concealed pistol license issued under RCW 9.41.070.

- If respondent is not physically located where his/her firearms and CPL are located, in order to reduce risk of lethality and harm, attempts to transport or follow respondent to retrieve the firearms. The intent of the law is to safeguard possible victims and there is an allowed 48 hour surrender period for firearms which are not in the immediate vicinity of the service of the order so only in rare circumstances should the respondent be given up to 48-hours to surrender firearm(s) and CPL to the LEA.

- Explains to the respondent this is a temporary court order, restricting the firearms and provide options on court appearance to contest restrictions

- If the respondent refuses to surrender firearms and/or CPL, advises the respondent that possessing or acquiring a firearm or CPL is prohibited and that violating the order may subject the respondent to criminal and civil penalties.

- If respondent still refuses, conducts any lawfully authorized search.

- Takes possession of all firearms belonging to the respondent surrendered, in plain sight, or discovered under a lawful search and the CPL.

13. Takes possession of all firearms, ammunition, and CPL belonging to the respondent surrendered, in plain sight, or discovered under a lawful search.

- If the service is for an ERPO, and the officer is unable to seize the firearm, the respondent has 48 hours to surrender the firearm to law enforcement.

- Instructs the respondent to call 911 and arrange to surrender the firearm(s).

14. Provides the respondent a receipt identifying all firearms surrendered.

15. Completes Return of Service form.

- Marks all appropriate boxes for each document

- Notes on the return of service form any other information observed regarding threat of harm or risk that would be important for the court to be aware of at the hearing, such as threats made by the respondent or other behaviors or evidence observed by the officer.

- Signs and dates the form.

16a. Completes a supplemental report with the GO number of the original SPD case.

Or

16b. Draws a new GO Number and writes a report titled, “Gun-Surrender-” for new or outside agency cases.

17. Uses the correct clearance code.

18. Completes a Property Report listing all firearm(s) and CPL.

- Prints a copy of the Property Report and mails/provides it to the surrendering party before the end of shift.

19. Submits the firearms to the Evidence Unit.

20. Calls Data to advise of date/time of service.

21. Makes two copies of Return of Service form.

- Sends the original to the appropriate court via scanned email. Also includes any notes.

- Sends a copy to the originating follow-up unit.

- Mails a copy to the petitioner (if requested by the petitioner.)

Precinct Front Desk Officer

22. For non-SPD ERPO only, checks the precinct log to see if an order has not been served within 10 days, if the order has not been served in 10 days, notifies the petitioner.

 

15.215-PRO-5 Unsuccessful Service of an Order to Surrender Firearms and/or CPL

If multiple attempts at service have failed:

Officer/Detective

1. Completes the Return of Service showing that the order was not served and the reason the order was not served.  Includes written notes of all attempts made to serve the respondent.

2. If completed by patrol, sends the Return of Service to the requesting follow-up unit.

Follow-up Unit

3. Sends the original Return of Service form to the court via scanned email and mails a copy to the petitioner. If requested by the petitioner, attempt to call to confirm service.

4. Scans the Return of Service form as a document to the case file and as a document to the petitioner’s and respondent’s files.