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;
- 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 protective order. You can find a lawyer using the West Virginia State Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact Legal Aid of West Virginia at (866) 255-4370.
How to Get Protection
What kind of domestic violence protective orders are available in West Virginia?
West Virginia courts can issue two types of domestic violence protective 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 protective orders1*
- Final protective orders2*
All respondents*are prohibited from buying or possessing* firearms3 and are required to turn over any guns they have to the law enforcement officer serving* the order or to a third party approved by the law enforcement officer serving the order.4
How can you get a protective order?
Click here to see if you are eligible for a protective order in West Virginia.
You can find out more about how to get protection at WomensLaw.org.
You can find your local courts 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 West Virginia State Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact Legal Aid of West Virginia at (866) 255-4370.
How can the court help protect you?
In West Virginia, respondents* to emergency and final protective orders are prohibited from possessing* or purchasing guns for as long as the order lasts.5
When issuing an emergency protective order, the court will do the following if the petition* indicates the respondent has guns:
- Require the respondent to turn over his/her/their firearms and ammunition immediately to the law enforcement officer who serves* the order; or
- Require the respondent to turn over their firearms and ammunition to a third party who is not prohibited from possessing firearms and who is approved by the law enforcement officer who serves the order.6
When issuing a (final) protective order, the court will do the following if the petition indicates the respondent has guns:
- Require proof that the respondent turned over their firearms and ammunition as ordered in the emergency protective order; or
- If the respondent cannot prove that they transferred their firearms to law enforcement or an approved third party, require the respondent to do so and to return to court to prove they have done so.7
At the petitioner’s request, sometimes courts provide additional protections from gun violence,8 such as:
- Ordering the respondent to turn over their firearms to local law enforcement immediately instead of to a third party;
- Ordering law enforcement to retrieve the respondent’s firearms if the respondent fails to turn them in as required by law;
- Scheduling a follow up compliance hearing* to ensure the respondent 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;
If the guns are shared marital property, the court can order the sale of the guns and divide the money between you;
- Ordering the respondent to stay away from you, your children, your family, and anyone else in immediate danger, based on the threats and/or actions of the respondent;
- Ordering the respondent 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 respondent’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 respondent’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 West Virginia State Bar’s website. If you cannot afford a lawyer, contact Legal Aid of West Virginia at (866) 255-4370.
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 respondent 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 respondent used firearms to hurt or threaten you, your family, your pet(s), or anyone in the community;
- If you fear that the respondent may use firearms violence or threats of firearms violence in the future;
- If the respondent has threatened to harm him/her/themself. This may be a sign that the respondent intends to use a dangerous weapon like a firearm against you, themself, or other people;
- If you can, the type(s), number, and location of firearms the respondent has access to.