When a Galveston area resident is a victim of actual or imminent domestic violence, they have the right to seek a protective order against the alleged abuser. Protective orders–also known as restraining orders–may cover a wide range of prohibited activities, including giving the accuser “exclusive” use of a common home, ordering the alleged abuser to refrain from making any contact with the accuser or their children, and directing the payment of child support where applicable. Anyone who violates a protective order can be charged with a criminal offense separate and apart from any other acts of domestic violence, such as aggravated assault against a spouse or family member.
Texas Creates New Grounds for Seeking Indefinite Restraining Orders
Normally, a protective order in Texas cannot last more than two years. This means the judge has the discretion to impose an order for a lesser period of time. But if the judge fails to specify a deadline, then the protective order will automatically expire on the “second anniversary of the date the order was issued,” according to Section 85.025 of the Texas Penal Code.
There are cases, however, where the law permits an extension of a protective order beyond the two-year deadline. If the judge makes specific legal findings that the accused abuser “caused serious bodily injury” to the accuser or a member of their family or household, then the court may issue an indefinite restraining order that may effectively last the lifetime of the parties. Similarly, the court can exceed the two-year limit if the accused was the “subject of two or more previous protective orders” involving the same accuser, and the judge finds the accused has or is likely to commit an act of “family violence.”
And last year, the Texas legislature added a third condition for an extended protective order. Under SB 712, which was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in May 2017, a judge may now issue an indefinite protective order if the accused committed a felony involving family violence against the accuser or their family “regardless of whether the person has been charged with or convicted of the offense.”
This is an important change because the burden of proof is much lower in protective order cases than criminal prosecutions. In the latter, a state prosecutor must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed an act that meets all specified elements of the felony offense. Since protective order cases are civil matters, the accuser need only prove the defendant committed family violence by a “preponderance of the evidence,” i.e. it was “more likely than not” the defendant is guilty.
A Galveston Domestic Violence Lawyer Can Help You
Whether you are the accuser or the accused, it is a good idea to work with an experienced Galveston domestic violence and protective orders attorney who can help you understand and work through the process. Call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at (281) 843-9776 to schedule a confidential consultation today.