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LAW ENFORCEMENT RELEASE OF FIREARMS
Firearms that come into the possession of a law enforcement entity may only be released upon eligibility verification by the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms. A "Certificate of Eligibility" (COE) certifies that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has checked its records and determined that the applicant/recipient is not prohibited from acquiring or possessing firearms at the time the firearms eligibility criminal background check was performed.
If firearms were seized by a law enforcement agency, that firearm may only be released when the registered owner of the weapon obtains a COE from the DOJ. If the firearm is associated with a criminal case, that case will have to have been adjudicated or the DA's office or court may advise the law enforcement agency, in writing, that the firearm may be returned to the rightful owner. However, even if you obtain a court order for the return of a firearm, its return will still require a COE from the DOJ.
If a firearm was obtained unrelated to a criminal case, such as a voluntary turn in, or found/recovered and no criminal case is pending, then the owner may request the return of the firearm but will still be required to provide a COE for the weapon.
For more detailed information related to the Certificate of Eligibility, please see the State of California Attorney General website for Firearms.
HOW DO I APPLY FOR A CERTIFICATE OF ELIGIBILITY?
Beginning January of 2022, all applicants requesting a release of firearms by a law enforcement agency must electronically submit a Law Enforcement Release (LER) application for the return of a firearm(s), ammunition, and/or ammunition feeding device(s) via the California Firearms Application Reporting System (CFARS).
You may access CFARS and set up an account by the links provided on the DOJ Bureau of Firearms webpage and if you wish to have more information regarding the Law Enforcement Release process, you may wish to check out the DOJ website: Information on the Law Enforcement Release Program website.
Once you create an account on CFARs, you will also be able to track the status of your application. There will be a list of forms on the page of which you will need to select the Law Enforcement Gun Release Application. Please note, prior to submitting, you will need to have the following immediately available:
Firearm Type; Make; Model; Serial Number; Firearm Origin (Country of origin or manufactured); Law Enforcement Agency in possession of a Firearm; Date Seized; Case Number and Agency address.
You may be able to obtain this information from the Shafter Police Department Property Room. Once the application is submitted, you will need to advise the Property Room by phone or email and the confirmation number you received upon submission. That will enable the SPD to make any necessary inquiries as to the status of your application with the DOJ with this reference number.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I RECEIVE MY CERTIFICATE?
Once you are deemed eligible by the DOJ, they will mail you an eligibility letter with a gold seal. That letter authorizes the Shafter Police Department to release the firearm to you. That letter must be presented to us in order to return the firearm within 30 days from the date on the letter to retrieve your firearm.
After you receive the letter, contact the Shafter Police Department Property room and make an appointment to come in and retrieve the firearm. Bring the original Eligibility Letter and appropriate identification with you to your appointment. Staff will verify the letter, ensure proper registration, and release the firearm to you.
Consideration on your behalf of how you intend to transport the firearm back to your home or other location should also be made, and if you have questions staff are available to assist should you need.
Finally, if the process seems a bit difficult to navigate, you may wish to seek assistance from a local Federal Firearms Licensed dealer who are generally quite familiar with the entire process described above.