A protective order is a court order issued to stop continuing acts of family violence, human trafficking, or stalking.
Under the Family Code, family violence includes:
- An act by a family or household member against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm;
- A threat by a family or household member against another member of the family or household that reasonably places the member in fear of physical harm;
- Abuse of a child of the family or household; or
- Dating violence.
Section §71.0021 of the Family Code provides dating violence is:
- An act by an actor committed against a victim or an applicant of a protective order and is intended to result in physical harm; or
- A threat reasonably placing the victim or applicant in fear of imminent physical harm.
This includes acts committed against individuals married to or dating a person with whom the actor has been married to or has dated. Dating relationships must be or have had a continuing romantic or intimate nature. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 71.0021 (West).
Types of Protective Orders
There are three types of orders: temporary ex parte orders, permanent protective orders, and emergency protective orders.
What are Temporary Ex Parte Orders?
A temporary ex parte order lasts for up 20 days and may be extended for another 20 days upon request. Tex. Fam. Code § 83.002. To issue a temporary protective order, the judge must find there is a clear and present danger of family violence to the applicant or a family member. Tex. Fam. Code § 83.002.
What are Permanent Protective Orders?
A permanent protective order generally lasts for up to two years, but the judge may issue an order for longer than two years if:
- The abuser caused serious bodily injury to the applicant or their family or household; or
- The same applicant has had two or more protective orders issued against the same abuser in the past and in both cases the judge found the abuser committed family violence and was likely to commit family violence in the future.
Tex. Fam. Code § 85.025(a-1).
What are Emergency Protective Orders (Magistrate’s Order for Emergency Protection)?
An emergency protective order is an order issued by the criminal court after an assailant is arrested for committing family violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Texas C.C.P. Art. 17.292(a). An EPO is generally valid between 31 and 61 days. The EPO may last between 61 to 91 days if the abuser was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. Tex. C.C.P. Art. 17.292(j).
How Do You Get a Protective Order?
Temporary ex parte orders and permanent orders are issued by a civil court and may be obtained by filing an application with the court clerk. Emergency protective orders are issued by the criminal court. In the case of an EPO, the judge shall issue the order if serious physical injury or use of a deadly weapon is involved. Tex. C.C.P. Art. 17.292(a) & (b). The following persons are eligible to file for a protective order:
- An adult member of a family or household;
- Any adult for the protection of a child;
- A prosecuting attorney; or
- The Department of Human and Regulatory Services.
Tex. Fam. Code § 82.002. Texas C.C.P. Art. 17.292(a).
Getting a Protective Order in Tarrant County
To seek a protective order in Tarrant County, either the applicant or the abuser must live in Tarrant County. An applicant may contact the Protective Order office at (817) 884-1623 between 7:45 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
A protective order questionnaire must be completed before protective order attorneys can make a determination to file a protective order application. After review, the applicant will be advised as to whether an application for a protective order will be filed. A hard copy of the questionnaire may be obtained by calling the above number or emailing email@example.com.
Emergency Protective Order Contacts:
For emergencies, call 911.
Fort Worth Police Victim’s Assistance 817-392-4390
Tarrant County District Attorney Protective Orders 817-884-1623
Tarrant County District Attorney Victim Assistance 817-884-2740
Arlington Emergency Shelter 817-460-5566
Arlington Resource Center 817-548-0583
Alliance for Children 817-427-3110
Area Agency on Aging 817-258-8081
Legal Aid of North Texas 817-336-3943
Mental Health / Mental Retardation 817-335-3022
Tarrant County District Attorney Felony Cases 817-884-1400
Tarrant County District Attorney Misdemeanor Cases 817-884-3535
Women’s Center of Tarrant County Rape Crisis 817-927-2737
Victim Services 817-927-4039
Safe Haven FW Emergency Shelter 817-535-6464
Fort Worth Counseling Center 817-536-5496
Suicide and Crisis Center 800-692-4039
Texas Youth Hotline 800-210-2278
Richland Hills Police Victim’s Assistance: 817-616-3780
North Richland Hills Police Department: 817-427-7007
Haltom City Police Department Victim’s Assistance: 817-222-7071
Watauga Police Department Victim’s Assistance: 817-514-5870
What If There is an EPO Against Me?
To protect the victim, the magistrate issuing the EPO may order the arrested person not to:
- Commit family violence;
- Stalk another person, including the victim;
- Communicate directly or indirectly in a threatening manner with a member of the victim’s family or household; or
- Go near the residence, workplace, residence, school, or child-care facility of the victim or a member of the victim’s family or household.
Additionally the magistrate may also order a defendant to participate in a global positioning monitoring system (GPS tracking).
Furthermore, the order shall suspend the defendant’s concealed handgun license and prohibit the defendant from possessing a firearm for the duration of the order.
The EPO does not require the defendant to stay away from the victim, but does prohibit the defendant from going to or near the places listed above. To be clear, the provisions apply to places, not people.
With regards to communicating with the victim, the defendant is not prohibited from communicating with the victim or members of the victim’s family or household. But communicating in a threatening or harassing manner either directly or indirectly may be prohibited.
Can the Victim Get an EPO Lifted?
Most judges will not allow a victim to lift an EPO. Simply put they are not going to risk putting the victim in harm’s way. If something were to happen after a judge lifted an EPO while a criminal case was pending, the result could affect the judge remaining on the bench. Understand as much as a victim may want the EPO lifted, the chances of having the EPO lifted while there is a pending criminal case are slim to none.
Modification of an EPO may be possible, but it is an expensive proposition and few applicants get the relief they are seeking. Also understand that conditions of an EPO are separate from any bond conditions. The conditions of bond and conditions of EPO are set by different judges in different courts.
In order to maximize your chances of having the EPO lifted, you will want:
- To first see if the criminal case can be resolved. If the criminal case is dismissed or no-billed, your chances of getting relief on the EPO are considerably higher.
- To have your attorney find out if the victim will sign an Affidavit of Non-Prosecution or a Motion to Modify Protective Order.
- Have your attorney contact the municipal court and ask for a Modification of Protective Order. This is generally not part of the criminal representation of your assault case, so you will want to talk to your attorney about how much it will be to present this motion and any costs of a hearing if the court requires a hearing on the motion.
What Happens If I Violate a Protective Order?
A violation of a protective order may be classified as either a Class A misdemeanor or—under certain circumstances—a third-degree felony.
Generally a violation of a protective order is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by:
- A fine of up to $4,000;
- Confinement in jail for up to a year; or
- Both of the above.
However, a violation of a protective order may a third degree felony punishable by a prison sentence of anywhere between two and ten years. Additionally, a fine of up to $10,000 may also be imposed. For the violation to be a felony, it must be shown on the trial of the offense that:
- The defendant has had at least two prior convictions for violations or repeated violation of a protective order; or
- The defendant has violated the order or a bond condition by committing an assault or the offense of stalking.
Tex. Pen. Code §25.07(g).