When Does “Stalking” Justify a Protective Order in Texas?
September 11th, 2017 by Tad Nelson in Family Law
A protective order does not necessarily require an overt act of violence, such as proof of domestic violence. Under Texas law, a judge may grant a protective order whenever the applicant is the victim of certain specified criminal offenses such as stalking. What constitutes “stalking”? Under Section 42.072 of the Texas Penal Code, there are three required elements:
- The defendant engages in conduct that he “knows or reasonably believes” the victim will perceive as threatening bodily injury or death, either to themselves or a member of their family or household;
- The defendant’s conduct places the victim or a family member “in fear of bodily injury or death”; and
- The conduct would cause any “reasonable person to fear” bodily injury or death under the circumstances.
Texas Woman Obtains Lifetime Restraining Order Against “Delusional” Ex-Husband
Here is an illustration of how Texas courts actually assess stalking allegations in deciding whether to grant a protective order. This is from a recent case in Eastland, Texas, where an appeals court upheld a trial judge’s decision to grant a “lifetime protective order” against a man accused of stalking his ex-wife. The couple was only married for three months before they separated. Although it was the defendant who initiated the divorce, the ex-wife said she left him.
The ex-wife testified the defendant was “very delusional” and that he believed she was “part of a conspiracy against him.” She said that on several occasions, he “locked the two of them in a room and interrogated her.” She said the defendant thought there was “a tunnel that comes under my house” that was used as part of a “prostitution ring” involving her.
In another incident, the defendant sustained a gunshot wound. He initially told the police two neighborhood children shot him. Later, he claimed his ex-wife was responsible for the shooting. The police eventually determined the gunshot was “self-inflicted” using a tripwire device. The police detective who investigated the matter concurred with the ex-wife’s assessment of the defendant as “delusional.”
And although the defendant testified he had no contact with his ex-wife during the 18 months following their separation, she testified that “he continued to try to locate her through Facebook friends and by e-mailing her and others.” She said there were “hundreds of Facebook postings that accused her of being part of a prostitution ring.” Other witnesses testified the defendant threatened to kill his ex-wife in a Facebook post.
From all this, the appeals court said the trial judge was justified in concluding the defendant “knowingly engaged in conduct that placed [his ex-wife] in fear of bodily injury and that a reasonable person would have been in fear of bodily injury.”
Are You Involved in a Protective Order Dispute?
Cases like this are tragic in that they appear to involve a person with unresolved mental health issues. And it is important to note that just because someone makes an occasionally nasty post on Facebook, that is not by itself proof of stalking. But is important to remember that if someone is seeking a protective order against you, any public statements you make can and will be used against you.
Whether you are seeking a protective order or wish to challenge such an attempt, it is important to have qualified legal representation at your side. If you need assistance from a Houston protective order lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today.