Many cases of family violence or domestic violence in Texas involve courts issuing protective orders. Also known as restraining orders or orders of protection, protective orders aim to prevent future acts of violence by legally limiting the contact that alleged offenders can have with alleged victims. Protective order hearings do not operate like ordinary criminal trials, as the petitioner (the person seeking the protective order) needs to prove the respondent (the person the protective order is being sought against) committed an act of family violence by a preponderance of the evidence. Unlike the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt used in criminal prosecutions, a preponderance of the evidence simply means that a majority of the evidence supports the petitioner’s argument.
If you need help obtaining a protective order or a restraining order is being sought against you, it is in your best interest to quickly retain legal counsel. Our attorneys in Houston can work to help you achieve the most desirable outcome for your protection order hearing. You can have them review your case and discuss all of your legal options when you call (832) 530-4070 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Harris County Protective Orders Information Center
- Types of Protective Orders in Texas
- Protective Order Process in Texas
- Harris County Protective Orders Resources
Types of Protective Orders in Texas
Protective orders and restraining orders are used interchangeably, but the terms have specific meanings in Texas. The Lone Star State essentially has three kinds of protection orders:
Protective orders and family violence are covered under Title 4 of the Texas Family Code. Protective orders are issued when courts find that family violence has occurred and is likely to occur in the future. Under Texas Family Code § 81.0015, there is a presumption that family violence has occurred and is likely to occur in the future if the respondent has been convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication community supervision for an offense against the person under Title 5 of the Texas Penal Code or an offense against the family under Title 6 of the Texas Penal Code against the child for whom the petition is filed, the respondent’s parental rights with respect to the child have been terminated, and the respondent is seeking or attempting to seek contact with the child. A protective order can last for up to two years. Specific kinds of protective orders include temporary ex-parte protective orders granted when applications are filed and Magistrate’s Orders for Emergency Protection issued by judges without victims being present in court.
Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs)
A TRO is a civil court order that preserves property and protects parties who already have a lawsuit filed. The TRO remains in effect for 14 days or until the date of a hearing. A TRO is different from a protection order in that it cannot award child custody, order a person to leave a shared home, or stipulate any kind of payment. A TRO also requires the parties to have filed a suit for dissolution of marriage. Laws relating to TROs are established under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 680 and Texas Family Code § 6.501.
The peace bond process in Texas is established under Chapter 7 of Title 1 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. A peace bond is basically a court order that requires a person to deposit money (the peace bond) with the court. If the person commits a prohibited action, such as an act of family violence, he or she will forfeit his or her peace bond.
Protective Order Process in Texas
When a petitioner files an application for a protective order, the court reviews the allegations and may determine to grant a TRO immediately without the respondent’s input. The TRO can be effective for up to 20 days.
The court will schedule a final protective order hearing no later than 14 days after an application is filed. While a respondent is not present for the initial hearing, he or she will be notified of the date and time of the final hearing.
When a court determines that domestic violence has more likely than not occurred, the court can order a person to complete a battering intervention and prevention program accredited under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure § 42.141 or, when such option is not available, complete a program or counsel with a provider that has begun the accreditation process described by Texas Family Code § 85.022(a-1). When neither of those options is available, the court can order a person to counsel with a social worker, family service agency, physician, psychologist, licensed therapist, or licensed professional counselor who has completed family violence intervention training that the community justice assistance division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has approved, after consultation with the licensing authorities described by Chapters 152, 501, 502, 503, and 505 of the Texas Occupations Code, and experts in the field of family violence.
Provisions under Texas Family Code § 85.022(b) allow a court to prohibit a person under a protective order from:
- Committing family violence;
- Communicating directly with a person protected by an order or a member of the family or household of a person protected by an order, in a threatening or harassing manner; a threat through any person to a person protected by an order or a member of the family or household of a person protected by an order; and if the court finds good cause, in any manner with a person protected by an order or a member of the family or household of a person protected by an order, except through the party’s attorney or a person appointed by the court;
- Going to or near the residence or place of employment or business of a person protected by an order or a member of the family or household of a person protected by an order;
- Going to or near the residence, child-care facility, or school a child protected under the order normally attends or in which the child normally resides;
- Engaging in conduct directed specifically toward a person who is a person protected by an order or a member of the family or household of a person protected by an order, including following the person, that is reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass the person;
- Possessing a firearm, unless the person is a peace officer, as defined by Texas Penal Code § 1.07 actively engaged in employment as a sworn, a full-time paid employee of a state agency or political subdivision; and
- Harming, threatening, or interfering with the care, custody, or control of a pet, companion animal, or assistance animal, as defined by Texas Human Resources Code § 121.002 that is possessed by or is in the actual or constructive care of a person protected by an order or by a member of the family or household of a person protected by an order.
Harris County Protective Orders Resources
Office of Harris County District Clerk | Family Intake — Visit this section of the Harris County District Clerk’s website to learn more about family intake processes relating to family violence cases. As the website notes, family violence matters are handled by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Use this website to access various legal forms.
Harris County District Clerk
201 Caroline St., Suite 210
Houston, Texas 77002
Crime Victims | Protective Orders | Texas Attorney General — Learn more about protective orders on this section of the Attorney General’s website. Find answers to frequently asked questions as well as information about additional options. You can also access the Domestic Violence Protective Order Kit.
Contact a Protective Order Defense Attorney in Houston, TX
Do you need help with an upcoming protective order hearing in Harris County? You will want to contact The Gonzalez Law Group as soon as possible. Our Houston criminal defense lawyers assist individuals throughout Harris County, Friendswood, Pearland, Seabrook, League City, Deer Park, Pasadena, La Porte, Galena Park, Baytown and many others. Call (832) 530-4070 or fill out an online contact form to have our attorneys provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free, confidential consultation.