Relationships are not a walk in the park, and they only become harder when a pandemic keeps families inside under one roof. During the stay-at-home orders, while arrests for all offenses have decreased dramatically, Family Violence cases have gone up.
Family Violence in Texas
Although a typical family unit is commonly thought to be comprised of blood relatives or those associated by marriage, the State of Texas has adopted a broader definition of “family” when allegations of domestic abuse have been made. In this instance, a family unit, or household, is persons living together in the same dwelling, whether or not they are related to each other. Similarly, those in dating relationships are considered family, regardless of them living together or separately.
An act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, or, that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault constitutes as Family Violence in Texas.
A family violence arrest also usually comes with strict conditions imposed throughout the duration of the case, and in some instances, beyond its resolution. It’s of the utmost importance that you thoroughly understand your obligation to these conditions so as to not violate an order of the court and place yourself in a position that could result in your re-arrest.
How Conditions Are Imposed
The manner in which charges are brought against you can have a significant impact on your freedom when dealing with a Family Violence case. In this blog, we’ll consider three scenarios:
- New Arrest: When a law enforcement agency becomes involved at the time an alleged act of violence occurs;
- Warrant Arrest: When a law enforcement agency executes a warrant for your arrest at a later date following an alleged act of violence;
- Walk-Through Arrest: Although not available in all areas, many counties will allow an individual with an outstanding warrant to turn themselves in on their own time to execute a warrant for their arrest.
In the first two scenarios, conditions are imposed by a magistrate judge either at the time of booking or at the issuance of a warrant respectively. In the third scenario, a qualified defense attorney can advocate on your behalf to reduce or remove unnecessary conditions before you turn yourself in.
If you believe you may have an active warrant in Travis County or neighboring communities, contact David Chambers to ensure your rights are protected before you’ve even been arrested.
The State’s main objective is to protect its citizens, so when allegations of family violence are made, a determination may be made that conditions are needed to ensure the safety of the complaining witness. Common conditions include: an emergency protective order (EPO), no contact with the complaining witness, orders to maintain a 200-yard distance from the alleged victim at all times, supervision by an officer of the court, a GPS ankle monitor, alcohol monitoring if alcohol or drugs are suspected to have been a factor at the time of the alleged incident, orders to complete a counseling evaluation, curfew restrictions, weapons forfeitures, and any other condition that the State believes will best ensure the safety of the alleged victim.
As you can see, your quality of life may be greatly diminished by any number of these conditions, so it’s important to have a top-rated attorney in your corner. David Chambers has been practicing law for nearly 30 years and has the experience and reputation necessary to ensure your freedom.
How Conditions are Enforced
With the exception of an EPO, conditions are imposed upon a bond, which defendants agree to abide by as part of their release from jail. Failure to adhere to these conditions can prompt a court notification and result in the revocation of the bond. If revoked, a warrant will be issued for the defendant’s re-arrest. The conditions are in effect throughout the entirety of the case, unless otherwise ordered by the court.
An EPO may have many of the same restrictions as a bond but is a temporary governing document which typically expires 31-91 days after the date of service. Failure to abide by the terms of the emergency protective order may result in arrest for a Violation of Protective Order, a class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in county jail, and/or a fine of up to $4,000. If the person violating the order has been convicted of violations two or more times, the violation will be considered a third-degree felony punishable by a prison sentence from two to ten years.
To be arrested for violating an EPO, probable cause will need to exist, but a warrant is not needed for that arrest to occur. If there’s physical evidence and witnesses can testify that a defendant has assaulted or threatened the complaining witness, sufficient cause exists to make an arrest.
- Does a protected person have to abide by the rules? A protected person is the person that is protected by the emergency order. Although wise for them to do so for multiple reasons, the PO is only enforceable against the Respondent/Defendant.
- What to do if in public and run into protected person? Assuming the PO has a condition of “no contact of any nature…”, Immediately leave the location. The Respondent/Defendant should not linger or make small talk or interact in any way and abide by the terms of the EPO. If the protected person harasses the respondent by showing up at a “Protected Place,” the respondent still needs to leave.
- How EPO differs from a stay away/no contact order in bond? It differs primarily by the methods of enforceability. A violation of the Protective Order can and will likely result in further criminal charges for VOPO (Violation of Protective Order). A violation of the bond conditions of stay away/no contact can result in the court motioning off/revoking the bond and a warrant would be issued. An emergency protective order expires after 30-60 days. Bond conditions are effective for the life of the case.
- Whether the PO precludes communication with the protected party? It depends on the “boxes checked.” Some Protective Orders will prohibit contact/communication of any kind (ie. Phone, text, in-person, third party, email, etc.), some will only prevent contact/communication of a “harassing nature.”
- How to file for a PO against an Alleged Victim? The process is usually available through the Justice of Peace Court’s website – jurisdiction in Travis County. Most commonly done through an application for emergency protective order (either through an attorney or pro se) in the county in which the parties reside or the cause of action is pending. Pro Se means that you are representing yourself.
- How does an Emergency Protective Order (EPO) issued in a criminal case differ from one entered in a family law case? Main differences are the originating action from which they stem (family case vs. criminal case) and how they are commonly initiated (Family law EPO’s are initiated by application on behalf of a protected person via an attorney or pro se, usually through the court having jurisdiction of the family law case). Criminal case EPO’s are most commonly through a Magistrates order, at or near the time of arrest, and can be initiated at the request of the person, the county attorney, a police officer or the judge himself.
An allegation of Family Violence can strip away a person’s rights. Let an experienced attorney fight for your freedom. If you or a loved one have been issued a PO, reach out to discuss your options.