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Risk Protection Order in Polk County

Why are so many petitions for risk protection orders (RPOs) being filed in Polk County?

Many believe the disproportionately high number of RPO cases are related to Sheriff Grady Judd being appointed to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School Public Safety Commission.

Chris Nelson, the Executive Director at the State Attorney’s Office for the 10th Circuit in Polk County, was also appointed as a member of the MSDHS Public Safety Commission.

What is the MDSHS Public Safety Commission?

Established in 2018, the commission works within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to investigate system failures in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and prior mass violence incidents in Florida.

Instead of focusing on existing laws and policies that were not followed, much of the commission’s attention has focused on the benefits of using Risk Protection Orders to seize firearms, ammunition, and concealed carry permits from “dangerous” Florida residents.

RPOs are aimed at preventing tragedy, but hundreds of new tragedies are being created as residents of Polk County are being branded as “dangerous” and striped of the constitutional rights.

More than 20 percent of the RPO petitions in Polk County are filed against juveniles who are already prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Any RPO is serious because it is a judicial finding that a person poses a “significant danger” of injuring another person or committing suicide with a firearm.

The RPO can impact a person’s ability to find employment, attend school, or rent an apartment. It shows up on any routine background check and the clerk of court’s website.

The RPO can never be sealed or expunged. Although the RPO initially lasts for 12 months, it can theoretically be extended on a yearly basis for the rest of the Respondent’s life.

Attorney for RPOs in Polk County, FL

If you were served with a temporary risk protection order in Polk County and notified of an upcoming hearing, seek out the services of an attorney experienced in fighting RPO cases if you wish to contest the allegations.

Leslie Sammis, an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, is experienced in helping the Respondent fight allegations in a petition for a risk protection order. She has fought five RPO cases in Pinellas County, FL, and successfully argue a motion to vacate a RPO in Hillsborough County.

The greatest number of risk protection orders are being filed in Polk County and Pinellas County, FL.

If you want to fight the allegations at the final RPO hearing, move to vacate a previously imposed final RPO, or fight a petition to extend the RPO at the end of the one year, then contact us.

Don’t face the judge alone. Call 813-250-0500 for a free consultation.


Judges in Polk County Assigned to RPO Cases

According to Administrative Order Number 1-1.55, signed on June 3, 2019, by Donald G. Jacobsen, Chief Judge, risk protection order cases are assigned to one of the following judges at the courthouse in Bartow, FL: 

  • the Honorable Wm. Bruce Smith, Circuit Court Judge, and 
  • the Honorable Michelle Pincket, Circuit Court Judge.

Statistics on RPO Cases in Polk County

Statistics on the number of RPO cases being filed in each county can be found in the Summary Reporting System for Risk Protection Orders from March 2018 through February 2019, as reported by OSCA: Research, Statistics, and Evaluation Data.

The statistics show that as of April 1, 2019, Polk County had 233 Final RPO hearings with 210 of the orders being granted and 23 of the orders being denied.

Throughout Florida, there were 1,359 Final RPO hearings (with 9 counties reporting the statistics from March of 2019).


Service of the RPO in Polk County

On June 19, 2018, Donald G. Jacobsen, Chief Judge for the Tenth Judicial Circuit in and for Pok County, Florida, signed Administrative Order No. 1-51.0 which authorized law enforcement agencies within Polk County to effect service pursuant to Section 790.401, Florida Statutes.

The administrative order followed the enactment of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act (hereinafter referred to as “The Risk Protection Order Act”) on March 9, 2018.

The Risk Protection Order Act, among other things, created §790.401, Florida Statutes.

After the enactment of Section 790.401(5)(a), the chief judge, after consultation with the Polk County Sherriff, determined it would be beneficial for the prompt and efficient administration of justice in this circuit to authorize law enforcement agencies within Polk County to effect service as prescribed in §790.401(5).

The administrative order authorizes the Clerk to open files with an assigned case number on an expedited basis.

By opening the case quickly, orders and notices of hearing issued by the Court can be immediately available for service and entered into the Florida Crime Information Center (FCIC) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) by the petitioning law enforcement agency or the Polk County Sheriff.

In addition to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the order authorizes all other Polk County law enforcement agencies to effect service, as prescribed in §790.401(5), of “notice[s] of hearing, petition[s], and temporary ex parte risk protection order[s] or risk protection order[s], as applicable.” Fla. Stat. §790.401(5)(a).

Other law enforcement agencies in Polk County include:

  • Auburndale Police Department;
  • Bartow Police Department;
  • Haines City Police Department;
  • Lake Alfred Police Department;
  • Lake Hamilton Police Department;
  • Lake Wales Police Department;
  • Lakeland Police Department;
  • Winter Haven Police Department;
  • Florida Polytechnic University Police.

When the Respondent can be found within the jurisdictional boundary of the law enforcement agency that filed the Petition for Risk Protection Order (hereinafter “Petition”), that agency is responsible for effecting service.

If the Respondent resides outside the jurisdictional boundary of the law enforcement agency that filed the Petition, the petitioning agency shall be responsible for arranging service with a law enforcement agency where the Respondent resides or can be found or with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

“A law enforcement agency effecting service pursuant to . . . [§790.401(5)(a), Florida Statutes, and this administrative order,] shall use service and verification procedures consistent with those of the sheriff.” Fla. Stat. §790.401(5)(a).

“Service under [§790.401,] takes precedence over the service of other documents, unless the other documents are of a similar emergency nature.” Fla. Stat. §790.401(5)(a).

The petitioning law enforcement agency shall accept the conformed copy of the notice of hearing, and temporary risk protection order or risk protection order, as applicable, issued by the Court and a copy of the petition filed as the copy referenced in §§ 790.401(3)(1)(a), 790.401(5), and 790.401(10)(b) to expedite service upon respondent and to expedite entry into the Florida Crime Information Center and the National Crime Information Center by the agency effecting service.

The petitioning law enforcement agency shall forward the copies for service in accordance with this Administrative Order.

Any law enforcement agency who relies upon the Polk County Sheriff for reporting shall forward the order within the required 24 hours to the Polk County Sheriff for reporting purposes.


Additional Resources

Polk Leads Florida in Risk Protection Orders – Read an article published on September 3, 2019, on LkldNow concerning risk protection orders issued to confiscate weapons, ammunition, and concealed carry licenses from the residents of Polk County, FL. The article quotes David Carmichael, a lawyer in Bartow, FL, who serves as acting general counsel for the Lakeland Police Department. Attorney David Carmichael also serves as a legal counselor for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies. The article explains why 40-50% of Respondents either do not show up for the hearing or end up consenting to the RPO without a hearing.

Risk Protection Orders in Pinellas County – Recent statistics on the number of RPOs being granted show that as of April 1, 2019, Pinellas County had 228 Final RPO hearings (223 granted, 1 denied, 4 missing) which means 99.56% of the written orders granted the Final RPO.

Risk Protection Orders in Hillsborough County – Recent statistics on the number of RPOs being granted show that as of April 1, 2019, Hillsborough County had 76 Final RPO hearings (67 granted, 1 denied, 8 missing) which means 98.5% of the written orders granted the RPO.


This article was last updated on Friday, October 25, 2019.

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