Most people tend to use the terms “restraining order” and “protective order” to mean the same thing. Which makes sense. After all, both can be used to order one party not to contact or go near another, or near their family, home, work, or children’s school(s).
However, this is where their similarities end.
In this post, we’re going to examine the difference between restraining and protective orders in terms of what they’re designed to do, the language and provisions they typically contain, how they are legally enforced, and the consequences of violating either.
Note that every situation is unique, and based on your needs, either your experienced divorce attorney or Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer will be able to provide professional advice specific to your circumstances.
What Texas Restraining and Protective Orders are Designed to Do
A restraining order is usually a legal document dictating that certain individuals cannot make contact with one another, and typically outlines dos and don’ts for parties on either side of a court case. Most often they’re written and filed in conjunction with other court documents, such as divorce papers, in order to maintain certain conduct throughout proceedings.
Protective orders are primarily associated with family violence, and as such are created with the intent to protect individuals from abuse. Orders of protection demand that an abuser stop harassing, stalking, threatening, or physically assaulting a victim, and can encompass a victim’s family or others living in the victim’s household.
What Does Each Type of Order Contain in Texas?
Texas Family Code defines restraining orders as either a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) or an Injunction. They contain general language, and can be lengthy, with provisions ranging from limited contact and visitation orders to preventing use of certain joint resources and ordering child or spousal support payments. In either case, the documents must describe, in detail, what act or acts need to be restrained so the court can legally issue one.
Within protective orders, there is much more variance in how these documents are drawn up. Details such as a) length of time order remains valid and enforceable, b) how criminal offenses will be addressed, c) and alterations fitting exactly the type of protection being sought reflecting specific cases, for instance. In many cases, the victim is not required to be present, and in some, a judge doesn’t even need a request for the order to be drawn up.
Reach out to a knowledgeable Texas defense attorney for advice on understanding the exact parameters of your restraining or protective order.
How Does Texas Enforce These Types of Orders?
Restraining order violations cannot be enforced criminally – police do not have the authority to act. Instead, the affected party must return to court in order to seek civil resolution.
However, an officer of the law can enforce any type of protective order. In fact, for an Emergency Protective Order, there are judges available to those police officers responding to domestic disturbances 24 hours a day.
The Consequences for Violating Restraining and Protective Orders in Texas
Although courts are authorized to send an offender to jail when a restraining order is violated, it typically doesn’t happen that way.
Violating a protective order, on the other hand, can result in immediate action and lead to serious criminal charges. Fines can reach $4,000, and jail sentences can be up to two years for violating a protective order alone. When a violation results in additional family violence, the defendant could face new misdemeanor or felony charges, which equal additional fines and time.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.