If you are a victim and your abuser has a gun or you feel unsafe for other reasons, it is important to work with a victim advocate. The following organizations can help you find an advocate free of charge:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE;
- VictimConnect at (855) 484-2846;
- The Rhode Island Hotline at (800) 494-8100;
- Any of the local domestic violence programs listed here.
It is also helpful to have a lawyer assist you, particularly when you are seeking a restraining order. You can find a lawyer using the Rhode Island State Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, information about free- and low-cost legal help is available from Rhode Island Legal Services.
How to Get Protection
What kind of restraining orders are available in Rhode Island?
Rhode Island courts can issue three types of domestic abuse1* and domestic assault2* restraining* orders. In each of these orders, the court can help protect you from gun violence or threats of gun violence by an intimate partner:
- Emergency temporary restraining orders3*
- Temporary restraining orders4*
- (Final) restraining orders5*
Courts can require defendants* subject to emergency temporary restraining orders, temporary restraining orders, and (final) restraining orders to get rid of their firearms within 24 hours of being served*with the order.6 Defendants who are ordered to get rid of their firearms are also prohibited from purchasing and possessing* firearms.7
Defendants subject to (final) restraining orders are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms.8
How can you get a restraining order?
Click here to see if you are eligible for a restraining order in Rhode Island.
You can find your local court here.
Court forms can be found here.
What do I do if I do not qualify for protection as a victim of domestic violence but I still need protection from someone?
If you do not qualify for protection as a victim of domestic violence but need protection from someone (including a stranger, an acquaintance, or another person not covered under a domestic violence protection order), you might qualify for some other type of order. Contact VictimConnect at (855) 484-2846 or a lawyer for more information. You can find a lawyer using the Rhode Island State Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, information about free- and low-cost legal help is available from Rhode Island Legal Services.
How can the court help protect you?
In Rhode Island, defendants* subject to (final) restraining orders are prohibited from purchasing or possessing* firearms.9
Courts can also require defendants subject to any type of domestic abuse or domestic assault restraining order to get rid of his/her/their firearms. If the court orders this, the court will:
- Order the defendant to get rid their firearms within 24 hours of being served*with the order by:
- Storing them with a federally licensed firearms dealer; or
- Handing them over to law enforcement;10
- Submit a receipt called “Affidavit of Firearms Surrender” to the court within 72 hours of being served with the order; and
- Tell the defendant they cannot purchase or possess firearms for the duration of the order.11
Courts can also order any other relief* they believe is necessary to protect you.12 Some of the things the court can order include:
- Requiring the defendant to turn over their firearms to local law enforcement immediately;
- Ordering law enforcement to retrieve the defendant’s firearms if the defendant does not turn them in within 72 hours or as ordered by the court;
- Requiring the defendant to appear before the court to self-report turning over the guns to law enforcement or a federally-licensed dealer;
- Ordering law enforcement to follow up to make sure the defendant transferred their firearms;
- Scheduling a follow up compliance hearing* to ensure that the defendant has not accessed additional firearms since the order was issued;
- Ordering law enforcement to go to your home at scheduled times to check in on your safety;
- Ordering the defendant to stay away from you, your children, your family, and anyone else in immediate danger, based on the threats and/or actions of the defendant;
- If the guns are shared marital property, the court can order the sale of the guns and divide the money between you;
- Ordering the defendant not to hurt you or threaten to hurt you in the future;
- Anything else you need to be safe.
How will the court know what you need to protect you from the defendant’s firearms violence?
In your petition* and during any of the hearings* you participate in when you are seeking protection, you will have the opportunity to tell the court about the defendant’s* threats or acts of abuse, especially ones involving firearms. Every situation is different, and it is important to talk to a lawyer about your specific situation. You can find a lawyer using the Rhode Island State Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, information about free- and low-cost legal help is available from Rhode Island Legal Services.
Your story will help the court decide what relief* to give you. Whether you are filling out court forms or speaking directly to the court, it is important to tell the court about the violence you experienced (working with your lawyer, if you have one), especially if the defendant used or threatened to use a firearm against you, a member of your family, any member of the community, or your pet. Among other things, this may include telling the court:
- About incidents of physical violence or threats of physical violence and include dates wherever you can;
- How the defendant used firearms to hurt or threaten you, your family, your pet(s), or anyone in the community;
- If you fear that the defendant may use firearms violence or threats of firearms violence in the future;
- If the defendant has threatened to harm himself/herself/themselves. This may be a sign that the defendant intends to use a dangerous weapon like a firearm against you, themselves, or other people;
- If you can, the type(s), number, and location of firearms the defendant has access to.