Colorado’s red flag is back in the news after an inmate in the Weld County jail attempted to file a red flag extreme risk protection order against Sheriff Steve Reams and staff, claiming that the fact that deputies carry shotguns while patrolling the jail is intimidating, and an abuse of inmates’ rights.
Leo Crispin had his request tossed out by a judge before a hearing was granted, but the case is another demonstration of how the new law is being used to try to game the system and harrass others.
Judge James F. Hartman dismissed Crispin’s petition this week, writing that his complaint does not “even warrant a hearing” under the state’s new extreme risk protection order law, which can allow a judge to temporarily remove a person’s guns if they are found to be a danger to themselves or others.
Hartman also noted that the shotguns carried by the jail deputies contain less-than-lethal projectiles.
Crispin had argued that the jail is his household, and that Reams, as sheriff, posed a significant risk of injury to himself or others by having a gun at the jail.
Sheriff Reams, meanwhile, was no fan of the state’s new red flag law to begin with, and according to ABC 7 in Denver, the frivolous filing has done nothing to change his mind.
“I would argue the system failed because this inmate was able to exploit the legislation’s loose definition of a ‘household’ to levy the petition in the first place,” Reams said.
While Reams has previously said his office has no plans to use the Extreme Risk Protection Orders, others sheriffs in the state are embracing the new law. 9News in Denver reported just a few days ago on the first red flag petition in Adams County, where a judge granted the temporary order allowing the seizure of firearms in a hearing where only one side was able to present evidence.
Inside the brief hearing, only police detectives appeared on the petitioner’s side. Neither the respondent nor an attorney for the respondent were present.
Also there were a handful of judges, there to witness a first-of-its-kind trial in the county.
What kind of trial only allows one side to present their case?
Technically, of course, what took place in Adams County was a hearing, not a trial. The bottom line, however, remains the same. It will be several weeks before the subject of the order actually receives their day in court, and in the meantime, the judge in the case has already allowed the respondents firearms to be seized before they’ve been given a chance to actually respond.
Investigators presented the judge with an affidavit explaining the threat and a search warrant identifying the firearm and its location. Moss also indicated the respondent was also found to be in possession of other firearms that belonged to another person ineligible to have them under Colorado law.
“The burden of proof in this case is by a preponderance of the evidence and the court does find that the required findings have been proven by the preponderance of the evidence,” Moss said.
With the petition granted, Westminster Police can seize the weapon on a temporary basis. Moss set a hearing for March 11, where the respondent can argue against a more permanent order that could last up to a year.
Details of the case remain unclear, but Westminster Police told 9News that the subject of the order is suspected of attempting to harass, intimidate, and retaliate against prosecutors and other public officials. It may be that the subject of the order turns out to be a not-so-great guy, but the question remains: if he’s truly a danger to himself or others, why aren’t police and prosecutors actually arresting and charging the suspect instead of seizing any legally owned firearms and leaving him to his own devices?