Protective orders, also known as restraining orders, are issued to protect victims of domestic violence, stalking, sexual violence, and human trafficking. They may also be issued to protect against the transfer or destruction of property in the course of divorce proceedings, and to put a stop to patent and trademark infringement.
Although protective orders are important to protect victims of violence and/or stalking, they can also be filed frivolously to gain leverage in family law proceedings. Moreover, if you are hit with a protective order, your freedom may be compromised. It is therefore important to know how to respond and avoid violations.
Grounds for a protective order
As mentioned above, there are several different acts that serve as grounds for someone getting a protective order in Texas:
- actual or threatened physical violence
- psychological abuse
- depletion of assets
- human trafficking
- patent and trademark infringement
However, most protective orders are filed to prevent continued domestic violence, or as a part of divorce proceedings.
A protective order, filed by the petitioner, prevents the respondent from making any form of contact or communication with the petitioner – and in some cases his or her children as well.
Emergency, temporary, and permanent protective orders
There are three types of protective orders.
An emergency protective order is issued by the criminal court after the respondent has been arrested for domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual abuse, or stalking. In Texas, an emergency protective order lasts from 31-61 days, but can be extended to 91 days if the incident involved assault with a deadly weapon. An emergency protective order can be requested by the victim, a police officer, a prosecutor, or based upon the judge’s decision.
A temporary protective order is first granted by a judge. Importantly, the respondent does not need to be present for a temporary protective order to be issued. The temporary order stays in place for the period of time specified in the order, which is usually 20 days.
Extensions can be granted for temporary orders upon the request of the petitioner or by the judge if the respondent has not yet been served with the order at the end of the specified period. Also, if the protective order is filed as a part of other civil or criminal proceedings, the temporary protective order stays in place until the end of the trial or proceedings.
Once both parties have had a chance to present their case to a judge, the judge makes a ruling on whether a permanent protective order will be issued. If the protective order has been issued as a part of divorce proceedings or a criminal case, this ruling is generally made at the end of the proceedings or trial.
In our state, a permanent protective order stays in place for the amount of time specified in the order, which cannot exceed two years. However, the petitioner can request for the order to be extended, which is generally granted so long as the judge deems that the order does not cause unnecessary adversity to the respondent.
What happens when a protective order is filed
If a judge deems that you prose a threat to the petitioner or the petitioner’s property, a temporary protective order is granted, and will stay in effect for 20 days. The type of protective order and its terms will depend upon your relationship with the petitioner and the nature of the alleged threats against them.
If you live with the petitioner, the terms of the order will dictate that you can no longer cohabitate. In some rare cases the petitioner will leave, but generally the respondent is ordered to vacate the premises as a part of the order.
You will most likely be required to avoid all contact with the petitioner and minor children, including physical proximity, letters, emails, phone calls, text messaging, and social media. You will also be prohibited from having a third party contact the petitioner on your behalf.
During the period of the temporary protective order, you will receive notification of the trial date to evaluate the necessity of a permanent protective order.
Consequences of violating a protective order
We cannot stress enough that you should absolutely comply with all terms of a protective order, even if you feel that it is not necessary, reasonable, or fair. Under Texas law, violating a protective order can result in up to one year in jail time, and a fine of up to $4000. If you commit an act of family violence when violating the order, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony with up to two years’ jail time, in addition to any other crimes committed.
Further, failure to comply with the terms of a temporary protective order greatly increases your chances of a permanent order being granted.
How to avoid violations
In general, avoiding all forms of contact with the petitioner should prevent violations of a protective order. However, there are a few common mistakes made by respondents that can result in an inadvertent violation:
- Avoid contacting the petitioner through another individual. It is also advisable not to contact family members (e.g. siblings or parents of the petitioner).
- Do not tag or mention the petitioner in social media.
- If the petitioner attempts to contact you, do not respond, but keep records of these attempts. This is known as enticement and it may be important to have records of this in legal proceedings.
- Do not contact the petitioner regarding any legal proceedings (e.g. to clarify a court date). Direct any questions or concerns through your respective attorneys.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.