UPDATED October 14, 2021, Original Post: March 21, 2018 Protective Orders
If you have been charged with violating a protective order in Texas, you could face significant penalties ranging from excessive fines and fees to jail and prison time. The Fulgham Law Firm is located in Fort Worth, Texas and serve the citizens of Tarrant County and the surrounding cities of North Texas. We have extensive experience helping the wrongfully accused of domestic violence charges and the violation of protective order cases that many times arise out of those charges. In this post, we’ll explain how protective orders work, what constitutes a violation of a protective order, and what steps you need to take if you have already been charged with violation of a protective order.
How Protective Orders Work in Texas
A protective order is serious, because it means that you have been issued a direct order by a judge to refrain from certain activities. If you violate the conditions of the protective order, serious repercussions can result ranging from bond violations to a new charge of violation of a protective order.
Protective orders are normally issued in cases of domestic violence. Judges customarily issue protective orders with the intent of protecting victims from assaults, threats, or even the presence of the offender. If you are under a protective order, in addition to having no contact with the alleged victim, you are required to give up any firearms you may possess, and you may be required to attend treatment programs for anger management and/or substance abuse.
The judge determines the length of the protective order. For a first-time domestic violence case, the length of the no contact provision ranges from 30 – 90 days. Most judges issue 60 – 90 day protective orders. If there are aggravating circumstances or it is a second or more instance of a violation of a protective order, it can last up to two years, or up to one year after your release from jail or prison.
Can A Protective Order Be Modified Or Removed?
It is possible. Your criminal defense attorney can file a motion to modify a protective order to limit or remove the conditions placed upon you at the time of your arrest. This is particularly effective if the case involves an alleged victim that does not want to prosecute the domestic violence case and is willing to provide an affidavit of non-prosecution outlining the fact he or she is not afraid of the accused and wishes the protective order to be dropped.
Even if the judge is unwilling to drop the protective order, your criminal defense attorney may be able to convince the judge to amend the protective order to allow contact, provided it is not harmful or injurious contact.
Beware! Never assume the police are not watching you! In our experience, we have seen many instances where the police wait outside locations they know a valid protective order is in place. Being in the area of the protective order location is enough for the officer to pull you over and arrest you for violation of a protective order! The smart move to make is to stay away from the alleged victim and the locations listed in the protective order until your criminal lawyer is able to modify the order.
Violating a Protective Order
You can be arrested without a warrant if probable cause exists that you assaulted or threatened the victim or entered prohibited spaces listed in the protective order. Physical evidence and statements by witnesses can be enough to result in your arrest. In fact, the alleged victim’s word that you violated the protective order is enough to establish probable cause to issue a warrant for arrest.
What if no one was hurt? What if your ex set you up for a violation of protective order? Even if you are invited over by your ex for a reconciliation meeting, you can be arrested for violating the protective order. Merely being within 500 feet of the location or individual listed in the protective order is sufficient to be arrested and charged with violation of a protective order.
Other factors that can result in an arrest include being caught in possession of a firearm. It is essential that you follow the mandates of turning in firearms to law enforcement officials, licensed dealers, or a valid third party within the time frame indicated by the judge’s orders. Failure to do so could result in a violation.
A first offense of violating a protective order is normally a misdemeanor with more conditions and penalties added on, as compared with regular misdemeanors. For example, if you are convicted or placed on probation for a violation of protective order misdemeanor case, the judge may require a Global Positional Satellite (GPS) device to be worn by you as a condition of probation. Any violations of the conditional requirement of a GPS device could result in a warrant being issued for your arrest and your probation being revoked. This is just one example of the additional penalties that could be added on a violation of a protective order case.
The Legal Process after a Protective Order Violation
If there is a claim that you have violated a protective order, you will be arrested and sent to jail while you wait for a bail hearing. At the hearing, the judge will look at the evidence and decide whether a violation occurred based upon a probable cause standard. Under rare circumstances, you can be released if the evidence does not support a charge.
If the judge believes the evidence supports a charge of violation of a protective order, you will be given a bond and be required to comply with strict bond conditions while on bond. For example, many judges in Texas require the use of a GPS monitoring device as a condition of bond to ensure no contact takes place between the parties. GPS monitors are notoriously faulty and if you do not keep the battery charged on the unit, many criminal courts will issue a warrant for your arrest for a bond violation.
If you hire an aggressive and experienced criminal defense law firm, they can expose the weaknesses of the violation of protective order case and negotiate with the prosecutor over a series of court dates. If a favorable result is unable to be accomplished, your criminal defense lawyer can proceed to a jury trial.
At the jury trial, the specifics of the allegations of how you supposedly violated the terms and conditions of the protective order can be exposed and the jury will be required to render a unanimous verdict. If reasonable doubt is established regarding whether a violation of a protective order took place, the jury can render a not guilty verdict and you will have the opportunity to get the arrest and charges expunged from your criminal record.
Under a worst-case scenario, if you are found guilty at the trial, you will receive sentencing. If convicted of a first-time protective order violation, you will face penalties for a Class A misdemeanor. These penalties include up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, or both. A skilled criminal defense attorney can work to reduce your penalties to probation rather than jail time.
If you have previous convictions, you will face penalties for a third-degree felony. This will result in a sentence between two and 10 years in prison. Your criminal attorney may be able to reduce your sentence to jail time or probation only, but you may face substance abuse treatment, anger management treatment and other required therapies in addition to incarceration.
After serving your sentence, the judge will likely require the protective order to remain in effect for an extended period of up to two years. If this happens, you may not be allowed to return home. Your firearm rights will be revoked for an additional five years past your sentence or probation. Also, you may be required to pay for the victim’s legal and therapy costs.
Fighting a Texas Violation of Protective Order Charge
Only an experienced Texas criminal attorney has the skills and knowledge necessary to fight your charges. Some of the things an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer may do include:
Contesting witness statements that work against you. In situations involving relationship breakups and child custody disagreements, this is especially important, because witnesses often provide false testimonies. Do their statements make sense compared to the other evidence? Remember, it is the burden of the State of Texas to prove the criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt. It is not uncommon to find an alleged victim providing no other evidence other than their word claiming that a violation of a protective order took place. Your criminal attorney may be able to show that the alleged victim’s statement was made for some other motivated purpose (i.e. child custody battle, gaining the upper hand in a divorce proceeding, etc.).
Gather witness statements that back up your story. What if other people were with you and they can establish you were not at the place the alleged victim claims? Affidavits from these witnesses could be gathered to provide an alibi showing you were not in violation of the protective order.
Examining the facts of your case to raise questions about intent. For example, if you are accused of intentionally entering the space where your ex-spouse was present, we can help you form a strong defense that you lacked intent.
You have an alibi. If the alleged victim is claiming you were at a particular location at a particular time prohibited by the protective order, you should provide any and all evidence you have establishing you were either with someone else at a different location or proof that you were doing something else at the time. For example, if you have date and time stamped receipts, text messages or social media posts showing locations at a time and place. This evidence could establish reasonable doubt regarding the alleged victim’s false claims of you violating a protective order.
Timing is important when building a defense against a protection order violation. The earlier in the process you start working with a skilled protective order violation attorney, the more likely it is that they will be able to form the strongest possible argument against your charges.
You need an aggressive advocate who will fight for your rights and your reputation. The Fulgham Law Firm is a team of 5 Former Prosecutors with over 80 years of criminal law experience. We have successfully resolved many violation of protective order cases in Tarrant County and the surrounding counties of North Texas. If you are a loved one need help with a violation of protective order case, don’t hesitate to call our office. Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
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.