An individual accused of domestic violence may also find themselves under a protective order. How does a protective order restrict your freedoms? It can prohibit you from talking to a specific person and going to certain places. It can also confiscate your firearms and prohibit you from possessing any firearms or ammunition. Any behavior that violates the protective order counts as a separate offense, resulting in a misdemeanor or felony charge.

Texas criminal defense lawyer Jason S. English uses his knowledge to fight for people accused of committing domestic abuse and violating protective orders. He has spent 15 years working as a prosecutor, and understands the strategies they employ. Let him put this valuable experience to work for you.

What Constitutes Violating a Protective Order in Texas?

According to Texas Penal Code § 25.07, a person violates a protective order by knowingly or intentionally:

  1. Engaging in family violence or an act that furthers an offense of trafficking, sexual assault, indecent assault, sexual abuse, or stalking;
  2. Communicating directly with a protected individual or a family member or household member in a threatening or harassing way;
  3. Communicating a threat through any person to a protected individual or a family member or household member;
  4. Communicating in any way with the protected individual or a family member or household member as prohibited by the order;
  5. Traveling to or being near any of the places outlined explicitly in the order or condition of bond;
  6. Possessing a firearm;
  7. Harming, threatening, or interfering with the care, custody, or control of a pet, companion animal, or assistance animal owned by a person protected by the order; or
  8. Removing or tampering with the normal functioning of a global positioning monitoring system (GPS).

The Different Types of Protective Orders in Texas

Protective orders, also called restraining orders, fall into three categories: emergency, temporary, or permanent. While the Court often uses similar restrictions as conditions on bond, it can issue protective orders in cases involving:

  • Dating Violence
  • Household Violence
  • Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Indecent Assault
  • Stalking
  • Trafficking

Per Texas Family Code § 6.504, a spouse can request a protective order as part of a divorce or suit for dissolution of marriage.

Temporary Ex Parte Order

The Court can issue a temporary ex parte protective order without the defendant's presence. Although a temporary order is generally limited to 20 days, the Court can extend the term.

Magistrate's Protective Order

Issued by the Magistrate, a Magistrate's Protective Order is sometimes referred to as an emergency protective order (EPO). Individuals or entities that can request an EPO include the domestic violence victim, the victim's guardian, a police officer, a lawyer, or the Court. If the police arrest the offender for domestic violence that involves severe bodily injury or the use or exhibition of a deadly weapon during an assault, EPOs may be mandatory.

An EPO, also known as a “stay away” order, generally remains in effect for 31 to 61 days. However, if the person engaged in a domestic violence crime used or displayed a deadly weapon, the EPO can remain in effect for 61 to 91 days.

What Are the Penalties for Violating a Protective Order in Texas?

In Texas, violating a protective order is typically a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, you can spend up to a year in county jail and pay a fine of up to $4,000. Violating a protective order may be a state jail felony in Texas if:

  • The subject of the protective order was a victim of sexual abuse.
  • It involved indecency with a child.
  • It was a sexual assault.
  • It was an indecent assault.
  • It involves stalking.

The penalties for a State Jail Felony in Texas include:

  • A term of 180 days to two years in jail
  • A fine of up to $10,000

If the defendant has been convicted of violating a protective order two or more times or violated the order by committing assault or stalking, the offense could be charged as a 3rd-degree felony. If you get convicted of a 3rd-degree felony in Texas, you can face incarceration for two to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Defenses to Violating a Protective Order in Texas

Just because someone accuses you of violating a protective order does not mean you must be convicted of a crime. Numerous defenses to violating a protective order exist, including not knowing about the protective order.

In some cases, the Court can issue temporary or permanent protective orders without the individual knowing about the order. An element of the offense hinges on the defendant's awareness of the protective order.

For example, if an individual recently moved, someone stole their mail, or the person was out of town for work or school, they may never have received notice of a protective order hearing. When the person fails to show up for the hearing, the judge may issue a default protective order based only on the other person's claims.

In a criminal case, the only way a prosecutor can get a conviction is if the defendant pleads guilty or if the prosecutor proves every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor cannot prove that you knew of the protective order or received a copy of the order, you should not be found guilty.

Another element of the crime? The defendant intentionally and knowingly engaged in one of the prohibited acts. For example, if the defendant goes to a location, not knowing the subject of the order would be in that location, it could be a defense. Suppose the defendant went shopping at the mall to buy a present for a friend when, out of the blue, the subject of the protective order walks out of the store. In that case, being in prohibited proximity may be an accident and not intentional.

Austin Domestic Violence Defense

As someone who prosecuted cases for over 15 years, Jason S. English understands the strategies prosecutors employ in domestic violence cases to coerce the accused into pleading guilty. Before you plead guilty to any crime, understand your rights and explore your options for fighting the criminal charges.

Have you been accused of violating a protective order in Texas? It's imperative to speak to a criminal defense attorney right away. When you're dealing with a violation of a protective order, it's not an exaggeration to say that your life depends on retaining an experienced, innovative criminal defense attorney. Attorney Jason S. English recognizes that your freedom depends on his legal prowess in and outside the courtroom. Contact Jason S. English today at (512) 454-7548 or online for an initial consultation and help with your protective order violation arrest.