In Texas, domestic violence cases are often accompanied by a protective order. The ramifications of a protective order go well beyond just being ordered to stay away from a specific person. The protective order’s restrictions could have a serious impact on your life and put you in danger of legal trouble if you are accused of violating the order.
Protective Order v. Restraining Order
Protective orders are often confused with restraining orders. Although they seek to accomplish the same goal, protective orders can be said to have more “teeth.” This means that any violation of the protective order is a separate, arrestable offense that may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Contrastingly, if a restraining order is violated there is not much that can be done. A judge might hold the violator in contempt of court and assess a fine, but that’s about it.
Additionally, unlike restraining orders, a protective order will put your name into a national database of domestic abusers. This is something that can follow you around and impact your ability to obtain employment.
Types of Protective Orders
In Texas, there are three different types of protective orders. They all vary in length, but have a common objective to protect victims of domestic violence.
Temporary Ex Parte Order: This is a type of protective order that can be issued by a judge without the offender being present. The temporary order is generally limited to 20 days but can be extended.
Magistrate’s Protective Order: A protective order issued by the magistrate is sometimes also called an emergency protective order (EPO). An EPO can be requested by the victim of domestic abuse, a guardian of the victim, police officer, lawyer or the court itself. EPO’s are usually mandatory if the offender is arrested for domestic violence involving serious bodily injury or a deadly weapon. An EPO will be in place for 31 to 61 days. In the case of deadly weapons, an EPO will be in place for 91 days.
Final Protective Order: After notice and opportunity to have a hearing, a court can sign a final protective order which stays in effect for two-years.
It is important to remember that protective orders are only issued in cases involving domestic violence, stalking and trafficking. Moreover, in order to obtain a protective order, a complainant must be able to show the judge that there has been a history of violence and that the violence is likely to continue in the future. The amount of evidence required to establish this is a preponderance—more likely than not. This differs from the elevated standard in criminal cases which is beyond a reasonable doubt.
Contents of a Protective Order
Protective orders in Texas include more than an order to stay away from a person(s). There are often numerous conditions that you must adhere to, some include:
- Attend mandatory counseling or classes
- Vacate your residence
- Pay child or spousal support
- Prohibit possession of a firearm
- Prohibit presence at certain establishments
- Payment of fines
These conditions are outlined in the order itself. If the judge grants the protective order against you, get a copy to ensure you maintain complete compliance.
Penalties for Violating a Protective Order in Texas
If a protective order has been issued against you, something as small as a text or phone call could put you in jail. As previously stated, any violation of a protective order is a criminal offense. This is rooted in the Texas Penal Code Section 25.07.
A violation of a protective order is generally a Class A misdemeanor. A Class A misdemeanor conviction can result in up to a year in county jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
If the complainant identified in the protective order was a victim of sexual abuse, indecency with a child, sexual assault, or stalking, violating the protective order is a State Jail Felony. This is punishable by 180 days to two years in state jail and up to a $10,000 fine.
Violation of a protective order may be charged as a 3rd degree felony if you have been convicted of violating the protective order two or more times. A conviction for a 3rd degree felony can include 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Removing a Protective Order
So often, couples come to realize that the protective order is unnecessary and a hindrance to their everyday lives. But by the time the protective order has been signed and issued, it’s too late. In Texas, a protective order cannot simply be “dropped” by the victim. Rather, a motion to vacate must be filed with the court and a hearing will be held. Despite evidence of reconciliation, judges are hesitant to remove protective orders, especially if there is a history of violence.
If you have questions about protective orders, call my office today to set up an appointment.