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New laws governing guns and domestic violence

Colorado Gov. Polis recently put pen to paper and signed into law three bills that had been introduced in the legislature in response to the March shooting in Boulder that left ten people dead, including one police officer.

The most prominent piece of legislation signed into law, HB21-1255, sets out new procedures that must be followed when a person is charged with a domestic violence offense and is required to relinquish any firearms in their possession or control. Colorado law already requires that a defendant in a domestic violence case may not posses or control a firearm during the duration of the case or any sentence imposed. The new law includes specific steps that the court must take to ensure there is compliance with the no firearms condition of a mandatory protection order.

Under the new law, a defendant charged with a domestic violence offense must file an affidavit with the court within 7 days after a protection order is issued attesting to either their non-possession of firearms, or the number, make and model, location, and reason why they have firearms in their immediate possession. The court must also conduct a compliance hearing within 8 to 12 days of the issuance of a protective order if an affidavit is not submitted. In order to circumvent the right against self-incrimination, the bill specifies that information provided in either the affidavit or compliance hearing may only be used against the defendant in a criminal case in a perjury prosecution.

The bill also clarifies how firearms may be transferred by a person who must surrender firearms due to a protective order and prohibits transfers to a private party living in the same residence. A private party must receive a background check before returning a firearm to a defendant to verify that they are legally permitted to have the firearm returned.

The two other bills, SB21-292 and HB21-1228 provide funding for and increase training requirements for court personnel and victims service programs that regularly deal with domestic violence.

Being accused of domestic violence is an extremely serious matter, and gun owners, in particular, require experienced legal counsel to navigate the process and to make sure that they are not facing additional criminal charges for not following the proper procedures for relinquishment.