Have You Been Accused of Violating a Texas Protective Order?

Texas courtroom where protective order cases are heard

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Brett Pritchard Law

Updated on April 10, 2024

If you are restricted by a protective order, it is a stressful situation. Violating any court order in the State of Texas can put you in contempt of court, leading to serious fines and, in extreme cases, jail time. However, the violation of a protective order that’s based on domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking is a serious crime that carries a serious sentence.

Many people are not fully aware of the exact restrictions they are under. Violating a protective order is a crime, so it is important to understand the parameters of your order and to work within them. If you’ve been charged with violating a protective order, you need the skilled legal counsel of an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney on your side.

Protective Orders

While the terms protective order and restraining order are sometimes used interchangeably, they have distinct meanings and purposes. Restraining orders are generally used in the context of divorce and civil law, and they typically impose restrictions that apply to both parties for the sake of resolving the case more efficiently and fairly.

Restraining orders are broader in scope than protective orders. Failure to comply with a restraining order has the potential to affect the outcome of the case and could land you in contempt of court, but that’s generally the extent of its legal reach.

Protective orders, on the other hand, impose rules that apply solely to their subjects – or those accused of domestic violence – and they are intended to protect the victims of family violence from further harm. Protective orders limit their subjects’ liberties in relation to the protected parties named, and violations can be prosecuted as criminal offenses.

The court generally grants reasonable requests for restraining orders. However, to obtain a protective order, the party requesting it must demonstrate that the subject named represents a clear and present danger.

The Subject of the Protective Order

Before someone can file a protective order against you, one of the following relationships must exist:

  • You are blood relatives.

  • You currently live together, or you lived together in the past.

  • You are currently married, or you were married in the past.

  • You are currently dating, or you dated in the past.

  • You have a child together.

  • You had a prior romantic relationship with a third party who has a current romantic relationship with the protected person.

  • You’ve been charged with stalking, sexually assaulting, or trafficking the protected person. In these cases, no special relationship is required.

For an individual to obtain a protective order against you, they must be able to prove that family violence not only occurred but that it’s also likely to occur again – or that one of the following applies:

  • There are reasonable grounds to support a stalking protective order.

  • There are reasonable grounds to support a sexual assault protective order.

  • There are reasonable grounds to support a trafficking protective order.

When Protective Orders Are Most Likely to Be Issued

While every protective order is based on the unique circumstances involved, most apply in circumstances that are based on the following offenses:

Texas Has Three Kinds of Protective Orders

The State of Texas has three kinds of protective orders. If you have violated any of these kinds of protective orders, reach out for the skilled guidance of a Killeen criminal defense attorney.

Temporary Ex Parte Orders

Temporary ex parte orders are temporary orders that the judge can issue when he or she believes that – without it – the person asking for the order would be in imminent danger. In these instances, the subject to the order needn’t be present. These orders can last up to 20 days and can be extended for additional 20-day periods – according to the judge’s discretion.

Permanent Protective Orders

Permanent protective orders usually last up to two years, but they can be extended. Such extensions are usually attached to acts of felony violence.

Emergency Protective Orders

Emergency protective orders (EPOs) are issued for instances of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, trafficking, and violence. These orders are also called magistrate’s protective orders or “stay away” orders. Any of the following parties can seek an EPO:

  • The victim of the domestic violence

  • The victim’s guardian or lawyer

  • The court

  • A police officer

EPOs generally last for 61 to 91 days, but they are often extended if the precipitating act was aggravated by the presence of a deadly weapon or causing severe bodily injury. If the offender is arrested for aggravated domestic violence, EPOs are mandatory.

Protective Order Violations

While there are many ways to violate a protective order, there are several violations that are most common:

Communicating with the Person

Simply communicating with the alleged victim can be a violation of your order.

Approaching the Person

If you are restricted by a protective order, it is important to steer clear of areas where you would reasonably expect to encounter the protected person. These areas can include his or her home, school, and workplace and his or her children's schools or daycare facilities.

Threatening the Person

Making any kind of threat or engaging in any threatening behavior is always a protective order violation. This protection from threat extends to everyone in the household and family of the person protected by the order. For example, threatening the protected person’s roommate is a violation. Violations also include harming, threatening, or interfering with the care of the protected person’s pet.

Committing an Act of Violence

Engaging in any act of family violence or any act that is in furtherance of a human trafficking offense, sexual abuse, sexual or indecent assault, or stalking offense is a violation of protective orders.

Possessing a Firearm

The simple act of possessing a firearm when there is a protective order against you is a violation of that order.

Tracking the Person

Tracking or monitoring the protected individual, a member of his or her family or household, or his or her property is a violation of a protective order. Tracking includes physically following the person or employing a tracking device.

Tampering with a GPS Device

Tampering with a GPS device used by law enforcement to keep tabs on those with criminal records is a violation of a protective order.

Other Specific Protective Order Terms

The judge can also order more specific terms that apply directly to the exact circumstances involved:

  • Ordering that the parties’ cell phone accounts be separated, which includes any cell phones used by children in the protected person’s custody

  • Ordering that the subject of the protection order pay child support and medical support

  • Ordering that the subject of the protection order submit to alcohol and drug testing

  • Ordering that the subject of the protection order attend an anger management course, a substance abuse course, or both

  • Ordering the subject of the protection order to move out of the home, which is known as a kick-out order

  • Setting terms and conditions for the subject of the protection order’s visitation schedule with his or her children

The protective order will spell out the restrictions imposed, and failure to comply can translate to a violation. Violating a protective order is a serious crime, and if you have been so accused, the best path forward is to work closely with an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney.


It’s important to touch on the matter of reconciliation. While it’s not unusual for couples – or family members – who are in turmoil to reconcile their differences and rekindle their relationships, this does not alter the validity of any protective orders that are in place.

If you are the subject of a protective order and the person you’re restricted from contacting is attempting to reconcile, having contact with them or responding to their attempts to communicate with you is a violation and can lead to a criminal charge. To invalidate a protective order, the involved parties must return to court and request a modification or termination.

If you are working to invalidate a protective order, you need the skilled guidance of a seasoned Killeen criminal defense attorney. Contact us today to get help throughout your case.

Bond Conditions

It’s important to note that the conditions of bond in cases involving family violence tend to be very similar to protective orders. The idea is to protect the victim while the underlying legal case is pending.

The court will impose conditions of release that apply to bail, and they often mirror those included in protective orders, including not communicating with the victim, not going to the victim’s home or place of work, and not committing any additional offenses against the victim. Failure to abide by the restrictions is a violation of the bond conditions and a criminal offense.

Fines and Penalties

Protective order violations are generally charged as Class A misdemeanors, which carry fines of up to $4,000 and jail sentences of up to a year. However, the charge can be elevated to a state jail felony if any of the following factors apply:

  • The protected person is a victim of sexual abuse.

  • The underlying charge is indecency with a child.

  • The underlying charge is sexual or indecent assault.

  • The underlying charge involves stalking.

A conviction for a state jail felony carries from 6 months to 2 years in jail and fines of up to $10,000.

If the conviction for violating a protective order isn’t the person’s first or if the violation takes the form of assault or stalking, it can be charged as a third-degree felony, which carries up to $10,000 in fines and a prison sentence of from 2 to 10 years.

Building Your Strongest Defense

If you are charged with violating a protective order, the state is responsible for proving every element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. As such, you and your seasoned Killeen criminal defense lawyer will have many opportunities to defend your case. While your defense strategy will hinge on the circumstances involved, many defenses fall into basic categories.

There Is Reasonable Doubt

Your focused Killeen criminal defense attorney will gather and skillfully compile all the evidence in your case. In the process, they will do everything they can to dismantle the prosecution's case. If reasonable doubt can be established, it is a highly effective defense strategy.

You Lacked Knowledge of the Protective Order

Protective orders can be issued when their subjects aren’t present in court, but at this point, the state is responsible for informing them. If you no longer lived at the address provided, if you were away for an extended amount of time, if the notice never arrived, or if you were otherwise unaware of the order’s existence, your lack of knowledge could thwart the state’s case.

You Lacked Intent

In order for a violation charge to stick, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to violate the order. However, because life is unpredictable, intent can be difficult to establish.

For example, if you rush into a corner shop to grab a few essentials and happen to run into the person protected by the order in the process, it’s a matter of happenstance rather than intent. While it’s easy for the other person to jump to the conclusion that you planned the meeting, it doesn’t make it the truth. Accidental meetings are far from uncommon.

Despite this fact, it’s important to give yourself a wide berth and to do what you can to stay out of the other person’s orbit. If you accidentally encounter the protected person in the course of living your life and face a charge as a result, it’s time to consult with a seasoned Killeen criminal defense attorney.

Consult with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Being accused of violating a protective order is serious, but attorney Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a formidable criminal defense attorney who will aggressively advocate on behalf of your case’s most positive outcome. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 today.

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