Colorado’s red-flag law went into effect on Jan. 1 despite vocal opposition from law enforcement officers across the state, including Lake County Sheriff Amy Reyes. Colorado is the eighteenth state to adopt red-flag legislation.
The Colorado law allows a family member, roommate or law-enforcement officer to petition a judge to temporarily remove a person’s firearms.
If the petitioner establishes clear and convincing evidence that a person poses a threat to himself or herself or others at a preliminary hearing, a state judge could grant a temporary extreme-risk protection order (ERPO) that would authorize the seizure of that person’s firearms for up to 14 days. The gun owner does not have to be present at the preliminary hearing.
If the ERPO is found warranted at a second hearing, with the gun owner present and represented by state-funded legal council, the respondent could lose access to firearms for up to a year. It is also possible to terminate, or extend, an ERPO.
At this point, local judges and law enforcement officers do not know how the red-flag law will affect criminal justice in Lake County.
“Our responsibility as the judiciary is to follow the law,” Fifth Judicial District Judge Catherine Cheroutes told the Herald. Cheroutes and Lake County Judge Jonathan Shamis will preside over local ERPO hearings.
Reyes said her staff will not actively pursue ERPOs but will instead continue to use other remedies, such as the Brady Act and 72-hour emergency mental health holds, to keep firearms out of the hands of unstable individuals.
If a Lake County judge signs off on a civilian-petitioned ERPO, Reyes said she would have no choice but to enforce it as the Lake County Sheriff’s Office could be held in contempt by the court.
Reyes has not developed any policies or procedures for her office surrounding the law.
“We will take an investigative approach (to ERPOs) like a normal case,” Reyes said. “We will have to look at things on a case-by-case basis.”
In December, commissioners Sarah Mudge and Kayla Marcella voted against a resolution that would have challenged the law and declared Lake County a “Second-Amendment sanctuary.” Commissioner Mark Glenn voted for the resolution.
“It became really clear to me that we could not take that liability on as a county,” Mudge said of her vote at a public meeting last week. “That’s not our role to not uphold state law.”
According to Mayor Greg Labbe, the City of Leadville does not plan to take a position on the topic. Chief of Police Saige Bertolas said she will enforce whatever a judge might order.
“I took an oath to protect all citizens and uphold the laws,” Bertolas told the Herald. “If I am given an order from a judge I am compelled to act, no matter what my personal beliefs may be.”