The COVID-19 pandemic may be an unusual time with extraordinary circumstances, but it doesn’t change current laws for people subject to a protective order.
Protective orders are a serious matter in the state of Texas. Violating a protective order can result in severe consequences up to and including jail time. This includes situations where the victim was the one who made the initial contact.
To better understand what protective orders are, we’re going to take a closer look at precisely what Texas state law says.
This includes examining what a protective order is, why one might be issued, and penalties for breaking the order. We’ll then look at some ways a person who is subject to these types of orders can stay in compliance during the current lockdowns.
What Are Protective Orders in Texas?
A protective order is a mandate handed down by a court that dictates specific actions that a person must follow. This can include refraining from contacting particular individuals, a mandate for drug testing, requirements not to threaten or harass a person or their children, or not to carry a gun.
When people talk about protective orders, the first thing that may come to mind is a stalker or some other type of unwanted connection. The reality is, though, that a protective order can be filed against anyone, including:
- Adult children
- Non-married intimate partners
Even individuals without a relationship can have a protective order filed against them if there are elements of stalking, sexual abuse, or human trafficking present.
Protective orders often last for up to two years and in some situations for life. Typically, lifetime protective orders are issued in cases of sexual assault and stalking. Family protective orders for abuse will usually last for up to two years with the possibility of extension.
What Are the Penalties for Violating a Protective Order in Texas?
If you are subject to a protective order and violate the guidelines set forth for you to follow, you can be arrested and charged with a crime. The actual charge will depend on multiple factors and prior arrests.
For a first time violation of the protective order, the charge is a class A misdemeanor. The penalty for a class A misdemeanor is up to one year in jail, a fine not to exceed $4,000, or both.
For a second time violation, meaning a person has been charged with a protective order violation once before, the crime is a state jail felony. The penalty for a state jail felony is between 180 days and two years and a fine up to $10,000.
If a person is found to have violated the protective order two or more times previously, the charge is elevated to a third-degree felony. The penalty for a third-degree felony in the state of Texas is between two and ten years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Solutions for Following Protective Orders
As noted above, even when it is the person who petitioned for the protective order who contacts you, you will be the one in violation of the order — not them. So what can you do to protect yourself? There are a few different things that are always a good idea in these situations, but especially so during COVID-19 lockdowns:
- Communicating through an intermediary such as an attorney
- Recording and documenting all phone calls or mail correspondence
- Remaining in a separate apartment or home during the lockdown
These are all steps that can help protect you from potentially violating a protective order. It is essential to fully understand the terms of the specific order that has been filed against you.
Each order can be different, so understanding what is required of you can be the first step to staying in compliance and out of jail.
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. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.