Question: I have heard that the only way a person may get a protective order against another person is if they have some sort of family relationship with one another. What if someone is harassing me that I’m not related to and I am really scared I’m going to be hurt?
Answer: Generally, protective orders are thought to be for the protection of the family against family violence; however, the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure extends the right to apply for and receive a protective order to a person who has been or may be a victim of sexual assault, even if the perpetrator is not related to the victim.
Title 1 of the Code, Chapter 7A, Protective Order for Victim of Sexual Assault states, “A person who is the victim of an offense under Section 21.02, 21.11, 22.011, or 22.021, Penal Code, a parent or guardian acting on behalf of a person younger than 17 years of age who is the victim of such an offense, or a prosecuting attorney acting on behalf of the person may file an application for a protective order under this chapter without regard to the relationship between the applicant and the alleged offender.” The law has been in effect within the State of Texas since 2003 and greatly extends protection to a group of persons who were not otherwise entitled to request the remedy.
The law goes on to add, “If a court finds from the information contained in an application for a protective order that there is a clear and present danger of a sexual assault or other harm to the applicant, the court, without further notice to the alleged offender and without a hearing, may enter a temporary ex parte order for the protection of the applicant or any other member of the applicant’s family or household.” That means that a protective order granted to a victim may extend to the victim’s family or household.
Before a protective order may be granted, a court must find reasonable grounds to believe that the applicant is a victim of sexual assault and is either under the age of 18 years or has been threatened by the alleged offender.
The protective order issued may “order the alleged offender to take action as specified by the court that the court determines is necessary or appropriate to prevent or reduce the likelihood of future harm to the applicant or a member of the applicant’s family or household.” The alleged offender may also be prohibited from communicating with the applicant or any member of the applicant’s family or household in a threatening or harassing manner or from going to or near the residence, place of employment or business, or child-care facility or school of the applicant or any member of the applicant’s family or household.
Protective orders may prohibit offenders from engaging in conduct directed specifically toward an applicant or any member of an applicant’s family or household, including following the person.
The great power of the protective order is that it prohibits an offender from possessing a firearm. A loophole exists if the offender is a peace officer actively engaged in employment as a sworn, full-time paid employee of a state agency or political subdivision. In that instance, the offender may continue to possess a firearm.
A protective order may also suspend a license to carry a concealed handgun. A protective order issued under Article 7A.03 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure may be effective for the duration of the lives of the offender and victim as provided or for any shorter period stated in the order. If a period is not stated in the order, the order is effective for two years. A protective order may only be issued for the duration of the lives of the offender and victim if the court finds reasonable cause to believe that the victim is the subject of a threat that reasonably places the victim in fear of further harm from the alleged offender.
This article is meant for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for sound legal advice. Direct questions to Ask the Law to firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Facebook page for the Dalhart Texan.