How do protective orders work in Texas?

Understanding how protective orders work can help Texans protect their families.

Nobody in Texas wants to deal with threats or abuse, but it is an unfortunate fact that many people do find their lives coming under threat by another person. In such times, one of the measures that can be taken to protect oneself is known as a protective order. Protective orders can restrict named individuals from various activities, including committing certain crimes or even going near a child's day care or school. Knowing the way protective orders in Texas are set up and what their extent and jurisdiction is can help families and individuals protect themselves more effectively.

How a protective order is obtained in Texas

Every county in Texas is able to provide people with protective orders. A person must live in the county in which the application for a protective order is being filed. If someone does not believe he or she and his or her family are safe or if he or she is not sure how to go about the process, a legal aid service program, private attorney or even the local county or district attorney can also help with the application. Whether or not a protective order is warranted is determined by the court case-by-case.

Two types of protective orders

Depending on where someone lives and on other factors, a different court may have jurisdiction over someone's case. There are a few different types of courts where a protective order can be established. Both criminal and civil cases are handled by county, district and state courts.

Criminal cases take place when the state or county is accusing a defendant of committing a crime. Regardless of whether the victim wants to press charges or not, in a criminal case, the district or county attorney can continue to press charges. Theft, murder, assault and harassment are all examples of crimes that could be prosecuted by the criminal law system. Applying for a domestic order will not necessarily open up a criminal case, however if law enforcement becomes aware of crimes being committed, the alleged perpetrators may be prosecuted.

The other type of case is known as a civil case. In these cases, the victim chooses whether or not to bring charges against an abuser. A civil domestic violence action is where the victim asks the court to protect him or her. If a protection order is passed, however, and it is violated, the state may arrest and press charges on the one who violated the order.

People in Texas who have been victimized or abused may want to protect themselves through use of the state's legal system. An attorney in the local area who practices family law might be able to help figure out the best course of action.