In Texas, restraining orders and protective orders are not quite the same thing. You may be familiar with restraining orders, which are not usually associated with criminal cases. Protective orders are issued against those guilty of violence, stalking, or sexual abuse.
The state offers protective orders to victims of violence or harassment, and there are serious consequences for violating an order.
If someone has issued a protective order against you, here is what you need to know about what a protective order is, is not, and what happens if it is violated.
Defining a Protective Order
A protective order is a court order to prevent contact and future abuse or violence. In general, it sets limits on the contact between specific individuals and is commonly used in marital separation, child custody battles, or divorce cases.
The person who requires the protective order to restrain contact with another is called the petitioner. The person who must abide by the protective order and stay away from the petitioner is the respondent.
Protective orders are issued in cases of:
- Sexual assault or abuse
- Family violence or domestic abuse
- Human trafficking
- Dating violence
- Indecent assault
- Qualifying for bond in a family violence case
The county court usually issues the protective order where the petitioner or the respondent resides.
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How the Process Works
The person who wants a protective order must file and obtain court approval, even if both parties have agreed to a protective order in writing. Without the court order, the agreement is legally unenforceable.
A general protective order often lasts for two years. Still, it can be for any duration, depending on the reason it has been approved. If the order is issued for sexual assault and stalking, it could last for the life of the petitioner or respondent. An individual could also request a protective order lasting for one year after the respondent is released from prison.
What Does a Protective Order Prohibit?
A protective order is meant to prohibit contact and acts of violence against the petitioner by the respondent. It prohibits:
- Communication with the protected individual in person or through another in a threatening or harassing way
- Communication in person, by phone, by electronic messaging such as text messages, email, and social media posts
- Possession of a firearm, even if the respondent has a license or permit
- Harm, threats, or interference with the care, custody, or control of a pet or companion animal
- Removal or tampering with a GPS monitoring system
A protective order can also bar an individual from going near the petitioner’s house, workplace, family home, school, or daycare center.
The Penalties of Violating a Protective Order
In Texas, violating a protective order is governed by Texas Penal Code Section 25.07. It is a Class A misdemeanor to intentionally or knowingly violate a protective order. You can be put in county jail for up to a year and/or asked to pay a fine of up to $4,000.
If the protective order was approved due to sexual abuse, indecency with a child, sexual assault, indecent assault, or stalking, you might be sentenced to state jail for 180 days to two years with a fine of up to $10,000.
The penalty rises to a third-degree felony if you have been previously convicted of the offense for which the order was issued or have violated the order or condition by committing assault or stalking. The penalty is two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
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What If You Are Served with a Protective Order?
If you are served with a protective or restraining order, obey it.
Do NOT attempt to contact the petitioner to straighten things out. Even if you believe there is no need for an order, don’t understand the reason for the order, or want to know why the petitioner felt threatened, do NOT violate the protective order.
If you contact the petitioner and they notify the police, you can be charged with contempt of court or criminal charges.
Speak to your attorney about your rights immediately after you receive the protective order. The attorney can answer any questions you have. The hearing is where you have a chance to respond to the order and state your side of the case.
You should appear at the hearing to preserve your rights, but contact the court if that isn’t possible. An attorney can represent you during a protection order hearing and ensure you have the chance to defend yourself, your property, and your access to your children.
Contact the Office of Brett Podolsky for Help
Brett Podolsky is experienced in representing clients facing protective order violations. He can ensure your rights are protected and help you through the process. Contact our office today for a free case evaluation.