What is a Restraining Order?
A restraining order, also known as a protective order, is issued as a preventive measure to put a stop to future abuse or harm. It puts certain restrictions on the person who might have caused or threatened to cause harm to:
- Their family members, including blood relatives, in-laws, or foster relatives;
- Someone shared a “dating relationship” with; or
- Someone they may have sexually assaulted, stalked, trafficked, or forced into prostitution.
So, a family member or an intimate partner can request a protection order against you if you have committed an act caused or threatened to cause any physical harm, injury, assault, or sexual assault against them.
If the victim is a minor, an adult in the family can seek a protection order on their behalf. But if the protection order is against someone with whom the minor had a dating relationship, they can request a protection order on their own.
Section 85.022 of the Texas Family Code lists down what a protective order can demand from you. A protective order can stop you from:
- committing violence against the victim,
- communicating to the victim, and
- going near the victim’s home and place of employment.
It can also make it mandatory for you to attend family violence prevention programs or counseling; follow custody orders; pay child and spousal support, or perform any other act necessary.
A victim of sexual assault, indecent assault, sexual abuse, stalking, trafficking, or forced prostitution can also seek a Protection Order even if they don’t have any existing relationship with the abuser.
Article 7B.005 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that a protective order in cases of physical abuse can stop the abuser from:
- communicating with the victim and their family;
- going near the victim or their family’s home, workplace, school, or business; or
- do anything to harass or annoy the victim or their family.
The judge can also add a provision to make the abuser turn in their firearms or take any other action to prevent further harm to the victim.
If a protection order is issued against you, you are advised to follow its provisions strictly. The Texas criminal law is very stringent when it comes to maintaining the protection of a victim. Let’s find out what happens if you violate protective orders.
What are the Penalties for Violation of Restraining Orders?
If you violate any provision of the protection order in presence of a peace officer, they can arrest you on spot without any warrant. However, if it wasn’t committed in presence of an officer, they will only arrest you if they have probable cause to believe that you have indeed violated the order.
Probable cause can be witness statements or any physical evidence. The statement of the victim can also be considered enough cause to make an arrest.
After the arrest has been made, you will be allowed a bail hearing where the judge will consider the validity of the evidence. In extremely rare circumstances, you might be freed of all charges because of a lack of evidence.
Otherwise, you will be released on bond with strict conditions and the judge might also mandate that you carry a GPS monitor at all times to ensure no contact takes place between you and the victim.
Violation of restraining orders is taken very seriously under Texas law. You can get jail time and have to pay a lot of fines. But a good lawyer can help you get out of this situation with minimum damage. Here are the penalties you may face for violation of restraining orders in Texas.
A conviction for violation of restraining orders is a class A Misdemeanor (See types of misdemeanors) and can lead to one year of jail time and a fine of up to $4000. But if it is a repeated offense, it will be tried as a felony and your penalty for violating the restraining order will increase drastically. A third-degree felony charge can lead to imprisonment between 2 to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Your lawyer can reduce your sentence to probation along with some necessary counseling or anger management sessions. Therefore, hiring an Austin criminal lawyer is your best chance to avoid imprisonment and high fines.
Contempt of Court, Incarceration, and Fines
Failure to follow the court order is also treated as contempt of court. The court has the power to punish the abuser for its contempt with up to 6 months imprisonment in the county jail and a $500 fine.
Over and above these penalties, you may also be punished for the actual act that led to the restraining order violation. For eg., if you assaulted, threatened, or stalked the victim, you will be separately tried for these charges.
Sometimes your intentions might not be wrong, or the victim might have called you for a meeting themselves, but you may find yourself in a lot of trouble for these seemingly innocent acts. So, consult an Austin criminal lawyer to understand the provisions of your restraining order before you make any contact with the victim.
Firearms and Federal Law
As per Section 85.026 of the Texas Family Code, protective orders will contain a provision restricting the abuser from possessing any firearm, unless they are a peace officer active on duty at the time of issuance of the order. So, once the order has been issued, you will be required to turn in your guns to the enforcement officers, and your license will be suspended until the order is active.
Even if the order fails to mention this specifically, you might not be allowed to possess a gun. If you were given proper notice for the arraignment hearing before the order was issued, and the order states that you are a threat to the victim, Federal law restricts you from keeping a firearm in your possession. This will apply even if you didn’t appear for the hearing.
Common Questions About Restraining Order Violations
What is Considered a Violation of a Restraining Order?
You will be considered to be in violation of restraining orders if you:
- Commit family violence, assault, or any act to physically harm or threaten to harm the victim or their family members.
- Communicate directly with the victim or their family in a threatening manner, or contact them in any way (other than through an attorney), if communication is prohibited under the order.
- Go near the places restricted by the protective order.
- Possess a firearm.
- Remove or temper the GPS functioning.
- Threaten or interfere with the care of a pet in possession of the protected person.
How Does the Court Know if a No Contact Order is Violated
The court can easily find out if you have violated a no contact order. For eg.:
- A peace officer can catch you in the act.
- The protected person can turn you in.
- A concerned family member can inform the police.
- You can be caught on security cameras.
- If you conceive a child during the validity of the order.
- If you travel on a plane together, the airline staff can report it to the police.
- If you call them from your cell during imprisonment.
What Happens if the Victim Violates the Order of Protection?
If you get caught, you will be held liable for a violation even if the victim violates their protective order themselves. You can still be arrested and the hearing will proceed, but this can be used as a defense during the trial to lift the order.
If you want to resume your relationship, or the victim wants to establish contact, it is advisable to remove the protective order altogether before you do that. The victim (if older than 18 years), their guardian, or the person who filed the application for the protective order can file another application to rescind the order.
What Happens When You Violate a Restraining Order?
When you violate a restraining order, you will be immediately taken into custody by a peace officer if they witnessed the violation themselves. But even if they didn’t witness it and there is a reasonable cause to believe you have violated the order, you will be arrested.
If this was your first violation of the protective order, you will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and can be imprisoned for one year and pay a fine of up to $4000. You will also be charged with contempt of court over and above the charges for the act you committed.
What Happens If You Violate a Restraining Order Twice?
If you violate the restraining order twice, your Class A misdemeanor will be treated as a felony instead. You can then be punished with imprisonment between 2 to 10 years and pay a fine of up to $10,000. You will also be charged for contempt of court which can lead to imprisonment of up to 6 months and a fine of $500.
You will be separately tried for the act that led to the violation of the protective orders over and above the other charges.
Consult an Experienced Attorney to Handle Your Case
If a protective order has been issued against you, you should reach out to an experienced Austin criminal lawyer immediately. Any minor restraining order violation can lead to years of imprisonment and thousands of dollars in fines. Most of these charges are covert and not known to the public, but can destroy your life as you know it.
If you or a loved one has violated any provision of a protective order, you shouldn’t waste any time before contacting Austin criminal lawyer, James Gill. He has years of experience getting his clients the best possible outcomes in similar cases. He can even act as your surety in your bail hearing (see Austin bail bonds) and ensure you spend no time in jail.
So, take control of the situation by calling today at 512-448-4560 to schedule a consultation and discuss your options. The Law Offices of James Gill, PLLC serves all of Austin, Westlake, Kyle, Buda, San Marcos, and the surrounding TX communities.