Know Your Rights When The Government Comes To Take Your Guns
What is a ‘Risk Warrant’?
This brochure discusses an important topic that involves the confiscation of firearms
and ammunition from citizens in Connecticut. The law involved provides a manner
for law enforcement to confiscate your firearms and ammunition if they believe that
they have probable cause that you are an imminent threat to yourself or others and
that you possess firearm(s).
These Risk Warrants have often been misunderstood or abused in the past. Often,
when in court, law enforcement will claim that the seizures were ‘voluntary’ because
of less than desirable comments made by the person who was the subject of the seizure.
It is important that Connecticut citizens understand their rights when faced with
a Risk Warrant and that they exercise those rights accordingly. It is also important
for citizens to understand how serious these seizures can be and that they can be
defended against with appropriate legal counsel.
This booklet will be useful for protecting your rights in a seizure situation, but
it will not take the place of a good attorney. Connecticut Carry would be happy
to recommend an appropriate attorney with experience in this field.
There are no guarantees you will be able to hold up to the accusations or the charges
being thrown at you. You can make law enforcement follow the law and give yourself
a chance to keep or have your property returned in a timely fashion if the charges
ultimately are baseless or resolved in a favorable manner.
Stay safe out there.
Have a Plan
Reading this booklet is a great start to knowing your plan.
You need to assess your situation and the firearms and people you know and form
a specific plan for your particular situation. This should include:
- A ‘buddy’ you can transfer your firearms and ammunition to in case of emergency
that does not live in the same residence.
- What you plan to do if law enforcement appears at your door, and what the people
in your residence need to do then, and in case you are taken away.
- An attorney, with full contact information, that you will contact in case of emergency.
Share your Plan
It is vital that you have other people involved and aware of your plans. You can
return the favor by also being aware of their plans as a ‘buddy system’.
Make sure they know what to do if they are in the residence when law enforcement
- Give them copies of your attorney’s contact information and make sure you have yours
on your person.
- Set up a transfer agreement with your ’buddy’ to make sure that if anything happens,
that they can take possession of your firearms and ammunition until you are clear
- Make sure they are educated on the relevant topics in this brochure.
- Let others know about these topics so they don’t fall victim to the law.
Be Prepared to Transfer
You should have a DPS-3-C form for any firearm you possess filled out entirely except
for the transfer date.
If law enforcement is there to confiscate your firearms and ammunition, you may
tell them that you are about to transfer the firearms and ammunition to the person
you have already made plans with and filled out the transfer forms with.
Simply filling out the transfer date will mean that the firearms and ammunition
are officially the other person’s and they simply need to come pick them up. Law
enforcement may force this to occur before they will allow you back in your residence.
When the situation is cleared up, or when your attorney advises, you will be able
to simply transfer the firearms back to yourself.
Always Record, Always Document
As in any contact with law enforcement or legal situation, you are best off recording
the situation with at least audio, and preferably video as well.
You have the right to record law enforcement in Connecticut without notice if they
are in the course of their duties and do not otherwise have an expectation of privacy.
This kind of recording can be done in a number of ways.
- Audio/video surveillance mounted on your residence.
- A pocket audio recorder (such as a Sony ICD-PX312)
- A camcorder held either by you or another person.
If you lack all of these options, write notes on a piece of paper. You will see
any interviewing officer doing this, and there is a good reason to be documenting
everything as well.
Don’t Consent to Searches
If law enforcement is at your door, you are best off not allowing them inside. The
best way to accomplish this is to walk outside the door calmly and close the door
behind you, locking it.
If the police ask to search you, your residence or property, your best reply is:
“I do not consent to any searches or seizures of my person or property.”
Repeat this answer as often as needed. If they insist that they have the right to
enter or search the premises, insist that they make contact with your attorney for
You should try to maintain your silence as much as possible. You have a right under
the Fifth Amendment to not answer any questions that you don’t want to, and exercising
this right is extremely important.
“Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
A common reply to a question from law enforcement would be:
“I don’t wish to answer your questions until I have spoke to my attorney.”
Remember, you don’t know what is going to be chosen to be used against you later.
You are not going to talk your way out of the issue if they are at your door. Your
best bet is to not give them any further information and to instead allow your attorney
help make your decisions and speak for you.
If you feel comfortable, you might find it advantageous to ask the supervising officer:
“Is this visit part of an official investigation?”
“Am I or anyone else in my residence suspects in any civil or criminal complaints
“Is anyone at the residence is being detained?”
“Am I free to leave the residence or property unescorted?
“Are there any plans or intentions to relocate me or anyone in the residence?”
Connecticut Firearms Seizure Statute
(a) Upon complaint on oath by any state's attorney or assistant state's attorney
or by any two police officers, to any judge of the Superior Court, that such state's
attorney or police officers have probable cause to believe that (1) a person poses
a risk of imminent personal injury to himself or herself or to other individuals,
(2) such person possesses one or more firearms, and (3) such firearm or firearms
are within or upon any place, thing or person, such judge may issue a warrant commanding
a proper officer to enter into or upon such place or thing, search the same or the
person and take into such officer's custody any and all firearms and ammunition.
Such state's attorney or police officers shall not make such complaint unless such
state's attorney or police officers have conducted an independent investigation
and have determined that such probable cause exists and that there is no reasonable
alternative available to prevent such person from causing imminent personal injury
to himself or herself or to others with such firearm.
(b) A warrant may issue only on affidavit sworn to by the complainant or complainants
before the judge and establishing the grounds for issuing the warrant, which affidavit
shall be part of the seizure file. In determining whether grounds for the application
exist or whether there is probable cause to believe they exist, the judge shall
consider: (1) Recent threats or acts of violence by such person directed toward
other persons; (2) recent threats or acts of violence by such person directed toward
himself or herself; and (3) recent acts of cruelty to animals as provided in subsection
(b) of section 53-247 by such person. In evaluating whether such recent threats
or acts of violence constitute probable cause to believe that such person poses
a risk of imminent personal injury to himself or herself or to others, the judge
may consider other factors including, but not limited to (A) the reckless use, display
or brandishing of a firearm by such person, (B) a history of the use, attempted
use or threatened use of physical force by such person against other persons, (C)
prior involuntary confinement of such person in a hospital for persons with psychiatric
disabilities, and (D) the illegal use of controlled substances or abuse of alcohol
by such person. If the judge is satisfied that the grounds for the application exist
or that there is probable cause to believe that they exist, such judge shall issue
a warrant naming or describing the person, place or thing to be searched. The warrant
shall be directed to any police officer of a regularly organized police department
or any state police officer. It shall state the grounds or probable cause for its
issuance and it shall command the officer to search within a reasonable time the
person, place or thing named for any and all firearms and ammunition. A copy of
the warrant shall be given to the person named therein together with a notice informing
the person that such person has the right to a hearing under this section and the
right to be represented by counsel at such hearing.
(c) The applicant for the warrant shall file a copy of the application for the warrant
and all affidavits upon which the warrant is based with the clerk of the court for
the geographical area within which the search will be conducted no later than the
next business day following the execution of the warrant. Prior to the execution
and return of the warrant, the clerk of the court shall not disclose any information
pertaining to the application for the warrant or any affidavits upon which the warrant
is based. The warrant shall be executed and returned with reasonable promptness
consistent with due process of law and shall be accompanied by a written inventory
of all firearms and ammunition seized.
(d) Not later than fourteen days after the execution of a warrant under this section,
the court for the geographical area where the person named in the warrant resides
shall hold a hearing to determine whether the firearm or firearms and any ammunition
seized should be returned to the person named in the warrant or should continue
to be held by the state. At such hearing the state shall have the burden of proving
all material facts by clear and convincing evidence. If, after such hearing, the
court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person poses a risk of imminent
personal injury to himself or herself or to other individuals, the court may order
that the firearm or firearms and any ammunition seized pursuant to the warrant issued
under subsection (a) of this section continue to be held by the state for a period
not to exceed one year, otherwise the court shall order the firearm or firearms
and any ammunition seized to be returned to the person named in the warrant. If
the court finds that the person poses a risk of imminent personal injury to himself
or herself or to other individuals, the court shall give notice to the Department
of Mental Health and Addiction Services which may take such action pursuant to chapter
319i as it deems appropriate.
(e) Any person whose firearm or firearms and ammunition have been ordered seized
pursuant to subsection (d) of this section, or such person's legal representative,
may transfer such firearm or firearms and ammunition in accordance with the provisions
of section 29-33, as amended by this act, or other applicable state or federal law,
to any person eligible to possess such firearm or firearms and ammunition. Upon
notification in writing by such person, or such person's legal representative, and
the transferee, the head of the state agency holding such seized firearm or firearms
and ammunition shall within ten days deliver such firearm or firearms and ammunition
to the transferee.
(f) For the purposes of this section, "ammunition" means a loaded cartridge, consisting
of a primed case, propellant or projectile, designed for use in any firearm.