Delaware

Delaware Law

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE FIREARM PROHIBITIONS

Delaware Domestic Violence Firearm Purchase and Possession Prohibitions

Delaware prohibits the following persons from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition:

  1. Persons convicted of a misdemeanor*of domestic violence (for five years from the date of conviction);1
  2. Persons subject to a Family Court protection from abuse order (other than an ex parte order).2

A court issuing an ex parte or emergency protection from abuse order may “order the respondent to … refrain from purchasing or receiving … firearms for the duration of the order. The Court shall inform the respondent that he or she is prohibited from receiving, transporting, or possessing firearms for so long as the protective order is in effect[.]”3

DELAWARE CIVIL PROTECTION FROM ABUSE ORDER FIREARM REMOVAL

Civil Protection from Abuse Orders that Require Removal

Delaware law does not require that firearms be removed from persons subject to a protection from abuse order;4 however, a judge issuing an ex parte or emergency protection from abuse order or a protection from abuse order after notice and hearing may order firearms and ammunition be removed from the respondent.5

Individuals Who May Petition for a Protection from Abuse Order

The following persons may petition for a protection from abuse order:

  1. Family, defined to include:
    1. Spouses;
    2. A couple cohabiting in a home in which there is a child of either or both;
    3. Custodian and child; or
    4. Any group of persons related by blood or marriage who are residing in one home under one head or where one is related to the other by any of the following degrees of relationship, both being residents of this State:
      1. Mother;
      2. Father;
      3. Mother-in-law;
      4. Father-in-law;
      5. Brother;
      6. Sister;
      7. Brother-in-law;
      8. Sister-in-law;
      9. Son;
      10. Daughter;
      11. Son-in-law;
      12. Daughter-in-law;
      13. Grandfather;
      14. Grandmother;
      15. Grandson;
      16. Granddaughter;
      17. Stepfather;
      18. Stepmother;
      19. Stepson;
      20. Stepdaughter.
  2. Former spouses;
  3. Persons cohabitating together who are holding themselves out as a couple, with or without a child in common;
  4. Persons living separate and apart with a child in common;
  5. Persons in a current or former substantive dating relationship (not including a casual acquaintanceship or ordinary fraternization between two individuals in business or social contexts[.]”6

Removal Process

A judge issuing a protection from abuse order may:

  1. “Order the respondent to temporarily relinquish to a police officer or federally licensed firearms dealer located in Delaware the respondent’s firearms and to refrain from purchasing or receiving additional firearms for the duration of the order…”
  2. “Issue an order directing any law enforcement agency to forthwith search for and seize firearms of the respondent upon a showing by the petitioner that the respondent has possession of a firearm; [the] [p]etitioner can describe, with sufficient particularity, both the type and location of the firearm or firearms; and [the] [r]espondent has used or threatened to use a firearm against the petitioner, or the petitioner expresses a fear that the respondent may use a firearm against them[.]”7

A police officer or federally licensed firearms dealer located in Delaware that takes possession of firearms relinquished by a respondent shall issue a proof of transfer to the respondent and to the Court issuing the protection from abuse order. The proof of transfer shall list:

  1. The name of the respondent;
  2. The date of the transfer; and
  3. The make, model, and serial number of each firearm relinquished.8

A protection from abuse order requiring the respondent to temporarily relinquish firearms to a police officer or federally licensed firearms dealer shall:

  1. State on its face that firearms shall be relinquished immediately to a police officer if requested by the police officer upon personal service of the protection from abuse order. If no such request is made by a police officer, the relinquishment shall occur within 24 hours of personal service of the protection from abuse order at any staffed police station or federally licensed firearms dealer located in Delaware. If the respondent is incarcerated at the time personal service is received, the 24 hour period shall commence at the time the respondent is released from incarceration.
  2. State on its face that Delaware law prohibits the respondent from purchasing, possessing, or controlling firearms, ammunition, or other deadly weapons.
  3. Require the respondent to file, within 48 hours of personal service of the protection from abuse order or, if the Court will not be open within 48 hours from the time of personal service of the protection from abuse order, within the first three hours the Court is thereafter open, one of the following documents:
    1. A certification, under penalty of prosecution for false written statement, that the respondent did not own, possess, or control any firearms at the time of the order and does not currently own, possess, or control any firearms.
    2. A copy of a proof of transfer showing, for each firearm owned, possessed, or controlled by the respondent at the time of the order, that the firearm was relinquished to a police officer or federally licensed firearms dealer located in Delaware.
    3. A certification, under penalty of prosecution for false written statement, for each firearm owned, possessed, or controlled by the respondent at the time of the order, that the respondent is unable to access the firearm, specifying the location of the firearm and the reason why the respondent is unable to obtain access.9

Return of Firearms to Respondent

Only after the expiration or termination of the protection from abuse order shall the law enforcement agency or federally licensed firearms dealer return the firearm to the respondent or dispose of the firearm.10 A deadly weapon or ammunition validly seized pursuant to a protection from abuse order may be disposed of by the law enforcement agency holding the weapon or ammunition, after the exhaustion of any right of direct appeal and after proper notice of the intent to dispose of such weapon or ammunition, six months from the date of notice, unless the weapon or ammunition has already been claimed by the owner or a third party.11 If the weapon or ammunition remains unclaimed after six months from the date of notice, the law enforcement agency may dispose of the weapon or ammunition after the expiration of 60 days from the date of denial of return as explained below.12 A respondent may request the return of a deadly weapon or ammunition. He or she must prove that he or she is the owner of the deadly weapon or ammunition and is not otherwise prohibited from purchasing, owning, possessing, or controlling a deadly weapon or ammunition.13 A law enforcement agency denying the return of a weapon or ammunition to a person who requests it shall not dispose of the weapon or ammunition until the expiration of 60 calendar days from the date of denial.14 “Dispose” may include the sale or transfer of the firearms to a federally licensed dealer or destruction of the firearms and ammunition.15

Penalties for Violation

A law enforcement officer who has probable cause to believe that an individual has violated a domestic violence protection from abuse order and that the individual has notice or knowledge of the protection from abuse order shall arrest such person, with or without a warrant.16 Presentation of a protection from abuse order, in either tangible form or stored in the Delaware Justice Information System or other electronic medium, that identifies both the protected person and the respondent and, on its face, is currently in effect constitutes probable cause to believe that a protection from abuse order exists.17 If a protection from abuse order is not presented, a law enforcement officer may consider other information in determining whether there is probable cause to believe a protection from abuse order exists.18 A law enforcement officer who determines that an otherwise valid protection from abuse order cannot be enforced because the respondent has not been notified or served with the order shall inform the respondent of the order, make a reasonable effort to serve the respondent with the order, and allow the respondent a reasonable opportunity to comply with the order before enforcing the order.19 A knowing violation of a protection from abuse order is punishable as a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year of incarceration, a fine of up to $2300, restitution or other conditions as the court deems appropriate; and by civil contempt.20

This page was updated February 10, 2020. Please note that data used are the most recent available data.