The recently passed “red flag” law is a gun control measure that gives police and courts the ability to remove guns and firearms from individuals that they determine to pose a substantial risk to themselves or others.

Once that order is entered by the magistrate or judge, the police will serve the warrant and confiscate any firearms in the individual’s possession. Initially, police should give the person against whom the protective order was issued the opportunity to voluntarily surrender the firearms. If the police reasonably believe the person is not forthright and has not voluntarily surrendered their firearms, they can search the home to find them that they believe are in that person’s possession.

How does the red flag law work?

  1. There needs to be an investigation by the police 
  2. The police determines whether the person is a threat to themselves or others 
  3. If there is a threat, the police then petitions for a two-week Substantial Risk Protective Order

What happens after the protective order is served?

After 14 days, the person against whom the protective order was issued has the right to present evidence and hear the testimony against them in a full hearing. The case goes before the circuit court judge in the city or county in which the person lives. The prosecutor on the case will have to prove to the court that the person is a substantial risk to themselves or others. If they succeed in doing so, the court can issue a permanent risk protective order to remove the firearms from the individual’s possession. 

How is this protective order different from others?

This permanent order can only be issued for six months. If the individual still shows to be a substantial risk to themselves or others, the order can be extended an additional six months. At the end of this time period, the protective order is over and the police must return the firearms to the owner.

Contact us if someone is seeking a substantial risk protective order against you or if you believe someone to be a substantial risk to themselves or others. Wade Grimes Friedman Meinken & Leischner PLLC is here for you during this difficult time by continuing to remain open and fully functioning. To schedule a consultation, contact Rebecca Wade at

About the Author

This is a photo of Rebecca Wade. She is a family law and criminal defense attorney at Old Town Lawyers.

Rebecca Janet Wade

Rebecca Wade is a partner at Wade Grimes Friedman Meinken & Leischner PLLC, practicing in all areas of family law and criminal law having experience with protective orders, divorce, child custody and visitation, child protective services investigations, juvenile delinquency, and criminal charges.

Wade has been named a 2023 Best Lawyer in America by U.S. News & World Report, a 2023 Super Lawyer in Northern Virginia and Washington D.C., and a 2020-2021 Top Lawyer by Northern Virginia Magazine.