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Understanding Indiana’s “red flag” law

On Behalf of | Feb 13, 2024 | Gun Crimes

Red flag laws allow police to confiscate the firearms of a person who is believed to pose an imminent risk of harm to themselves or others. Advocates say these laws save lives, and research backs up their claims to some degree. However, these laws also spark serious constitutional concerns, and critics say police do not enforce them consistently or fairly.

Indiana’s Jack Laird Law

Indiana’s version of a red flag law is known as the Jack Laird Law. Named after an Indiana police officer who was killed in the line of duty, the law gives police the authority to take weapons from a person even if the person has not committed a crime. Typically, they need a warrant to do so.

To get a warrant for a weapons seizure, a police officer must present an affidavit to a court. The affidavit must:

  • State the officer believes a specific person is dangerous and has a firearm
  • State the specific location of the firearm
  • Document the officer’s encounters with the allegedly dangerous person or with another person the officer believes to be credible

If the affidavit convinces the judge, the court issues a warrant and police may seize the weapons in a search.

A law enforcement officer may also seize weapons during the ordinary course of their duties without a warrant if they believe the person poses a danger to themselves or others. The officer must, within 48 hours, submit a statement to the court explaining the basis for their belief, as well providing documentation about the weapons seized.

What happens next?

After police have seized weapons under the Jack Laird Law, the court must hold a hearing within 14 days. They must also notify the affected person and a prosecutor.

At the hearing, the affected person has a chance to defend themselves and their right to possess the weapons. However, if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person is dangerous, the court can order the police to keep the weapons and suspend the person’s license to carry a handgun.

If, at the hearing, the court orders the weapons retained, the person must wait 180 days before they can petition the court for their return. At this point, the court holds another hearing. At a subsequent hearing, the court can release the weapons or order them retained for another 180 days. Note that the weapon owner may also petition to have the weapons sold so that they can be paid for them.

This dynamic can continue for up to five years. At the five-year point, the court can hold another hearing about whether to destroy or otherwise dispose of the weapons.

Learn more

The system set up by the John Laird Law is unusual in many ways, and it is intended to apply only in unusual circumstances. At best, it can save lives. But it can also cause a lot of confusion and end up denying people their rights.

Because these cases are so dependent on their exact circumstances, it’s important that people who are affected by a John Laird Law seizure talk to an experienced professional to learn more about how the law might apply to their unique set of facts.