Rhode Island

Rhode Island Law

RHODE ISLAND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE FIREARM PROHIBITIONS

Rhode Island Domestic Violence Firearm Purchase and Possession Prohibitions

Rhode Island prohibits persons who have entered a plea of nolo contendere or been convicted of misdemeanor simple assault, cyberstalking and cyberharassment, violation of a protective order, and disorderly conduct* from purchasing, owning, carrying, transporting, or having in their possession any firearm.1

Rhode Island prohibits persons subject to domestic abuse protective orders and persons subject to domestic assault protective orders issued after notice and a hearing from purchasing, owning, carrying, transporting, or having in their possession any firearm.2

RHODE ISLAND CIVIL DOMESTIC ABUSE AND DOMESTIC ASSAULT PROTECTIVE ORDER FIREARM REMOVAL

Domestic Abuse and Domestic Assault Protective Orders that Require Removal

A person suffering from domestic abuse may file a complaint requesting any order which will protect them from abuse including “[o]rdering the defendant to surrender physical possession of all firearms in [their] possession, care, custody, or control and . . . further order[ing] a person restrained not to purchase or receive, or attempt to purchase or receive, any firearms while the protective order is in effect.”3

Upon the filing of a complaint for a domestic abuse protective order or domestic assault protective order, “the court may enter any temporary orders that it deems necessary to protect the plaintiff from abuse.”4

Individuals Who can File a Complaint for a Domestic Abuse or Domestic Assault Protective Order

Domestic Abuse Protective Order

“A person, or a parent, custodian, or legal guardian on behalf of a minor child, or the director of the [D]epartment of [C]hildren, [Y]outh, and [F]amilies (“DCYF”) or its designee for a child in the custody of DCYF . . . suffering from domestic abuse or sexual exploitation” may file a complaint in family court requesting a domestic abuse protective order.5

“Domestic abuse” is defined as “the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between present or former family members*, parents*, stepparents, or persons who are or have been in a substantive dating*  or engagement relationship within the past one year in which at least one of the persons is a minor:

  1. Attempting to cause or causing physical harm;
  2. Placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm;
  3. Causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat of force, or duress; or
  4. Stalking* or cyberstalking*.6

Domestic Assault Protective Order

A person suffering from domestic abuse may file a complaint in district court requesting a domestic assault protective order.7

“Domestic abuse” is defined as the occurrence of “one or more of the following acts between cohabitants or against the minor child of a cohabitant*, or the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between persons who are or have been in a substantive dating or engagement relationship* within the past one year or against a minor child in the custody of the plaintiff[:]”

  1. Attempting to cause or causing physical harm;
  2. Placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm;
  3. Causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat of force, or duress; or
  4. Stalking*or cyberstalking*.8

Removal Process

A judge issuing a domestic abuse protective order or domestic assault protective order may order “the defendant to surrender physical possession of all firearms in his or her possession, care, custody, or control and shall further order a person restrained not to purchase or receive, or attempt to purchase or receive, any firearms while the protective order is in effect.”9

Within 24 hours of notice of the protective order, the defendant shall surrender all firearms in his or her possession, care, custody, or control to:

  1. The Rhode Island State Police;
  2. The local police department; or
  3. A federally licensed firearms dealer.10

Within 72 hours of being served with the protective order, the defendant must either:

  1. File with the court a receipt showing the firearm(s) was physically surrendered to the Rhode Island state police or local police department, or to a federally licensed firearm dealer; or
  2. Attest to the court that, at the time of the order, the person had no firearms in their immediate physical possession or control, or subject to their immediate physical possession or control, and that the person, at the time of the attestation, has no firearms in their immediate physical possession or control or subject to their immediate physical possession or control.11

If the defendant surrenders firearms to a federally licensed firearms dealer, the defendant “may instruct the federally licensed firearms dealer to sell the firearm(s) or to transfer ownership, in accordance with state and federal law, to a qualified named individual who is not a member of the person’s dwelling house, who is not related to the person by blood, marriage, or relationship … and who is not prohibited from possessing firearms under state or federal law.”12

Within 15 days of surrender of firearms and after notice is provided to the defendant and a hearing is held, the court may continue the order of surrender, “and shall further order [the defendant] not to purchase or receive, or attempt to purchase or receive, any firearms while the protective order is in effect.”13 At the hearing, the defendant must prove by clear and convincing evidence that, if their firearm rights were restored, they would not pose a danger to the person suffering from domestic abuse or to any other person.14 In determining whether to restore firearm rights, the judge shall consider all relevant evidence “including, but not limited to: the complaint seeking a protective order; the criminal record of the [defendant]; the mental health history of the [defendant]; [and] any evidence that the [defendant] has, since being served with the order, engaged in violent or threatening behavior against the person suffering from domestic abuse or any other person.”15 The court may lift the firearm prohibition if the court determines, after a review of all the relevant evidence and after all parties have had an opportunity to be heard, that the defendant would not pose a danger to the person suffering from domestic abuse or to any other person if their firearm rights were restored.16

Law Enforcement Exemption

The firearm prohibition due solely to the existence of a domestic abuse protective order or domestic assault protective order shall not apply to sworn peace officers and active members of military service, including members of the reserve components thereof, who are required by law or departmental policy to carry departmental firearms while on duty or any person who is required by their employment to carry a firearm in the performance of their duties.17 This exemption shall apply only during the course of their employment. “Any firearm required for employment must be stored at the place of employment when not being possessed for employment18 use; all other firearm(s) must be surrendered in accordance with [the law]”.19

Return of Firearms to Defendant

Firearms surrendered by a defendant pursuant to a domestic abuse protective order or a domestic assault protective order shall be returned to the defendant upon their request when:

  1. The defendant produces documentation issued by a court indicating that the protective order that prohibited the person from purchasing, carrying, transporting, or possessing firearms has expired and has not been extended; and
  2. The law enforcement agency in possession of the firearms determines that the defendant is not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law.20

Penalties for Violations

A violation of a domestic abuse protective order or domestic assault protective order shall subject the defendant to being found in contempt of court.21

A violation of a domestic abuse protective order or domestic assault protective order of which the defendant had actual notice is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of no more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.22

This page was updated October 30, 2018. Please note that data used are the most recent available data.