Monday, June 5, 2017

Send an Offensive Text Message, Lose Your Gun Rights

Many of my clients are shocked to learn how quickly a rude or offensive text message can cost them their gun rights in California.  Don't make that mistake.  Before you hit "send", think about what you're willing to sacrifice.

California has a very permissive system of issuing restraining orders, especially in cases of alleged domestic violence -- and the definition of "domestic violence" in California is expansive.  The court will issue a restraining order when the petitioner can prove "by a preponderance of the evidence" (a very low burden) that the respondent has "harassed" him or her.  "Harassment" includes some behavior that we might not consider to be "abuse" or "domestic violence" within the conventional meanings of those terms.  Harassment in California includes any course of conduct, directed at a specific person, which serves no lawful purpose, and which would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.

"Harassment" in restraining order hearings often includes rude, offensive or insulting text messages or emails.  Calling your ex-girlfriend a "bitch" in a text message may be the grounds for the court to slap you with domestic violence restraining order, even if you never hurt or threatened anyone.  In many cases, a judge may find that an insulting text message meets the definition of "harassment", described above.

A judge can also issue a domestic violence restraining order when one party has sent repeated, unwanted messages to an ex.  Depending on the circumstances, sending annoying text messages may constitute "harassment".  The messages don't even have to be rude or insulting. If your ex-girlfriend has asked you to stop calling or texting, you are legally obligated to respect her wishes.  If you continue sending her unwanted messages, she may take those screen shots to court and get a restraining order against you.

Anyone who is the subject of a restraining order in California must immediately surrender all their firearms to the local police, or else sell them to a licensed gun dealer.  You may not simply "sell" your collection to a friend or have a family member hold your weapons.  You also may not buy, possess or even have access to firearms while the restraining order is in effect.  If you're a hunter, collector or target shooter, you may be legally barred from enjoying your hobbies for up to 5 years.

The laws and procedures regarding restraining orders in California are complicated. If you or a loved one has questions about the process, call us for a free attorney consultation.  (714) 449-3335.  Ask for John.