DVPO Basics: Restoration of Firearm Rights

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Courts throughout the State of West Virginia issue Domestic Violence Protective Orders daily, in both magistrate courts and family courts, which often affect a person’s right to own or possess a firearm. A Court issues a Domestic Violence Protective Order — known for short as “DVPO” — when it has good cause to believe that domestic violence or abuse has happened or is likely to happen between family/household members or between intimate partners. If a Court orders a DVPO, then the individual who is the Respondent is prohibited from contact with the individual or individuals named as the Petitioner in the DVPO.

When a DVPO is issued by a Court, Respondents are often surprised to learn that in addition to the prohibition that they refrain from contact with the individuals named in the Order, a Respondent may also temporarily lose their right to possess a firearm. This prohibition seeks to protect everyone involved, including the Respondent.

West Virginia Code Section 61-7-7(a)(7) lays out the conditions that must be met in order for the Court to prohibit a Respondent from possessing a firearm while the protective order is active. These conditions are as follows: (1) must have an active DVPO that was issued by the Court that gave the Respondent actual notice of the hearing and gave the Respondent an opportunity to participate in the hearing; (2) the active DVPO order must restrain the Respondent from conduct that harasses, stalks, threatens, and/or places the other person in reasonable fear that bodily injury could occur; and (3) the Respondent must actually be able of harming the other person or the Court explicitly states that certain conduct that could cause harm is prohibited. If all of these conditions are met, then the Respondent will be prohibited from possessing a firearm. This prohibition includes the possession of a hunting gun, as the definition of a firearm in West Virginia is very broad – it is any “weapon that will expel a projectile by action of an explosion.” The prohibition from possessing a firearm stays in affect as long as a DVPO is in effect, and if an individual violates the prohibition, they can be charged and found guilty of a misdemeanor offense.

But, what happens after a DVPO expires or is dismissed – does the Respondent automatically regain their right to possess their firearms again? Can the Respondent go pick up his favorite hunting rifle just in time for deer season, or his favorite handgun for recreational target shooting?The short answer is NO. When a DVPO is no longer in place, the Respondent must ask the Court to restore their right to repossess firearms. The Respondent must file a “Petition for Firearms Return, and here at Adams Legal Group, PLLC, we have helped numerous individuals restore their possession of firearms. We hope to be able to help YOU too!