A woman in Florida has been accused of taking matters into her own hands and removing her husband’s guns after a domestic violence altercation. The incident highlights how different states handle firearm ownership after a domestic violence arrest.
The woman and her husband were in the middle of a contentious divorce. After a hearing at the divorce court, the husband followed her home and rammed into her car, forcing her off the roadway.
The husband was arrested on a domestic aggravated battery charge, a more serious version of Maine’s domestic violence assault offense. He was put in jail and she was awarded a temporary restraining order against him. The terms of that restraining order required him to surrender his firearms under federal law.
While he was in jail, she went to his apartment and took his handgun and assault rifle. The next day, she tried turning them into the local police station. The police there, though, accused her of breaking into her husband’s apartment and stealing his things. They arrested her for armed burglary and two counts of grand theft.
In the end, the woman was in jail for longer than her husband, something that has aggravated advocates for domestic violence victims.
One of the key issues in the situation has been the discrepancy between what federal law requires after a restraining order involving domestic violence, and the ability of local law enforcement agencies to follow through on those mandates.
18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8) makes it illegal for anyone to possess a firearm if they are the subjects of a restraining order that was issued after a hearing that found they presented a credible threat to an intimate partner.
However, it is up to local law enforcement to follow through on this federal law and confiscate any weapons that are already in someone’s possession after a restraining order. In some states, this happens very quickly.
In others, like Florida, the process is slow and full of loopholes. One of those loopholes is a big one – there is no Florida state regulation that sends police to collect someone’s firearms. Instead, people who are subject to a restraining order are warned that they will go back to jail if they are caught with a gun.
While many gun owners in Florida give their weapons to family or to the police for safekeeping to comply with federal law, many others do not. This is the so-called “relinquishment gap.”
Maine’s domestic violence laws are like Florida’s in this sense. People who are subject to a restraining order are required to relinquish their weapons. But they are not forced to do so by local law enforcement.
Those who keep their weapons face arrest if they are caught with them. But police take no active steps to take the guns after the restraining order has been filed.
If you have been accused of domestic violence in Maine and had a restraining order filed against you, the domestic violence defense lawyers at Maine Criminal Defense Group recommend turning in any weapons you own to avoid the repercussions of being caught with illegal firearms. Adding a weapons charge will make a bad situation even worse.
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