Are Protective Orders Automatically Imposed In Domestic Violence Cases?

Practically, yes. While protective orders aren’t automatically imposed, they’re requested in virtually all domestic violence cases, so they are practically automatic.

A protective order, legally known as a “magistrate’s order for emergency protection” or “MOEP” is an order from a judge that prevents you from going within 200 feet of your own home from 61 days (or 91 days if the crime you are charged with involved a deadly weapon) and from going within 200 feet of where the complainant works or within 200 feet of your children’s school. A protective order also forbids you from owning any firearms while the order is in effect. Some complainants also file for “two-year” protective orders in civil court, which can, among other things, extend these restrictions from 61 or 91 days to two years.

By the time you’ve hired a defense attorney to appear with you in court, chances are that you’ve already signed a protective order in front of a magistrate judge at probable cause court. It’s something that’s the prosecution always requests, whether or not there’s any merit to the underlying case. Why? Because the state wants to protect complainants from possible harm and itself from negative publicity. The last thing a prosecutor wants is to have a defendant released on bond with no protective order, move back in with the complainant, and then assault the complainant again. Even though a protective order doesn’t practically prevent that from happening, at least the prosecutor can say they tried to do something.

Once you get into court with a defense attorney to ask that a protective order be lifted, you’re fighting an uphill battle because the judge is trying to protect himself or herself from negative publicity just like the prosecution. The judge is thinking: if I lift this protective order and this defendant goes out and assaults the complainant again, I’m going to be blamed and it’s going to hurt me come election time.

So it’s very difficult to lift a protective order once it’s entered. I’ve been able to get them lifted, but it’s rare. Typically, you have to have (1) a case involving very minor or no visible injuries (2) where the complainant appears in court asking for the protective order to be lifted. It also helps if you can present some evidence of actual innocence.

Another reason why judges don’t like lifting protective orders is that they’re temporary. Protective orders typically last for 61 days, although they can go up to 91 days if the case involves a deadly weapon. Most judges would rather just let them naturally expire. Once they do, the state can’t ask for another one unless the defendant picks up a new case involving the same complainant.

But a protective order isn’t the most restrictive order a judge can enter in a domestic violence case. The worst thing that can happen to you as a domestic violence defendant is being subjected to a “no contact” order.

A no contact order is exactly what it sounds like: it’s an order preventing you from contacting a particular person, usually the complainant in the case, while the case is pending. Sometimes these orders will include the children of the complainant and witnesses.

Practically, that means that you’ve been kicked out of your home, not just for 61 days in the case of a protective order, but for however long your case lasts. For misdemeanors, that could be several months or over a year. For felonies, depending on the court, it could be two years or more. It’s an extreme disruption to your life.

Fortunately, because no contact orders are so restrictive, they’re easier for your defense attorney to argue against. If you can show that there are good reasons that you need to communicate with the complainant (whether to deal with a pending divorce or share custody of the kids or pay bills) or if you’re willing to agree to phone or email contact or some type of supervised contact, it’s easier to get a no contact order lifted.

For more information on Protective Orders In Texas, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (713) 936-4521 today.

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