A protective order is a civil legal action filed in court that tells the person you are complaining against not to commit any further acts of violence against you and others listed in the order. Protective orders are described in greater detail in Title 4 of the Texas Family Code chapters 71—81.
A protective order is not a criminal charge or case. Any criminal acts must be reported to a law enforcement agency to be prosecuted. If you have suffered personal injury because of a criminal act, then you may qualify for crime victims’ compensation benefits. In order to be eligible for crime victim’s compensation, you must report the crime to law enforcement within a reasonable period of time.
For a judge to grant a protective order, after a hearing, the judge must find that (1) acts of family violence have occurred and (2) are likely to occur in the future. Texas Family Code §81.001 & §85.001.
The term family is generally described in Texas Family Code §71.003 and means that you (petitioner) and the person you want the protective order against (respondent) have at least one of the following relationships:
related by blood,
related by marriage,
have been married,
are living together or have lived together – household members (Texas Family Code §71.005),
have a child together (biological parents of the same child),
foster child and foster parent,
are dating or have had a dating relationship, (Texas Family Code §71.0021), or
a victim of sexual assault, indecent assault, stalking, or trafficking (Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann, art. 7B).
The term violence is generally described in Texas Family Code §71.004 and means act(s) that:
result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault,
is a threat that reasonably places the family member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself,
abuse as that term is defined by Texas Family Code §261.001(1)(C), (E), (G), (H), (I), (J), (K), and (M) by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household, or
dating violence (Texas Family Code §71.0021).
How Protective Orders Work
A protective order can prohibit the abuser from:
committing any further acts of family violence against you and other family members;
communicating in a threatening or harassing manner with a family or household member;
going near a victim’s residence or place of employment;
going near child care and school facilities of family members;
removing or harming pets or companion animals; and
possessing a firearm.
Violation of a protective is generally a criminal offense. A law enforcement officer that witnesses the violation of a protective order has mandatory obligations.
Protective orders are usually effective for two years. It is possible to remove a protective order after it has been issued, but the Gillespie County Attorney’s Office will not represent you in removing a protective order. If you want to remove a protective order, you will have to do it on your own or hire an attorney to help you. You should also know that the decision to remove or modify a protective order is solely up to the judge.
The Protective Order Process
The Gillespie County Attorney’s Office can provide representation at no fee to people wanting to file an application for a protective order with the court. For the Gillespie County Attorney’s Office to provide representation (1) a conflict check must be completed, (2) a screening form must be completed, and (3) a representation agreement signed. You will need to contact the office and set up a meeting with us.
The Gillespie County Attorney’s Office primarily represents the State of Texas and generally cannot provide representation to a person in a protective order matter if the person:
has pending criminal charges,
is on parole or probation (community supervision), or
has a pending Child Protective Services or Texas Department of Family & Protective Services case.
The Gillespie County Attorney’s Office does not provide representation or legal advice in divorce, child custody, or child support cases, and limits the scope of representation in protective order cases to issues of protection only.
Once an Application for a Protective Order is filed with the court, the applicant can request that the Court issue a temporary ex parte (without notice to abuser/respondent) protective order that is effective for 20 days. If the Court finds that there is a clear and present danger of family violence based on the applicant’s affidavit and/or testimony, a temporary protective order may be issued until a final court hearing on the matter can be held. The protective order and notice of the hearings must be served upon the respondent/abuser.
A hearing will be scheduled to occur within two weeks of filing an application for a protective order. You are required to have at least one preparation appointment with our office and at least one court appearance. You must be willing to testify against the abuser in open court. You must be willing and commit to appear at these hearings.
If the Gillespie County Attorney’s Office will not be able to represent a person in filing an application for a protective order, the person may still:
hire a private attorney,
contact Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, or
file the application for a protective order on their own (pro se).