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What Are the Penalties for Violating a Protective Order in Texas?

Some misdemeanor crimes in Texas involve violating a prior court order. For example, if a judge issues a protective order against a defendant accused of domestic violence, and that defendant violates any terms of that order, prosecutors may charge the defendant with a separate Class A misdemeanor under the Texas Penal Code. In practical terms, this means the defendant faces up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine for not complying with the court’s instructions.

Defendant Receives 10-Day Jail Sentence After Violating No-Contact Order

Here is a practical illustration of how the law works. This is taken from a recent Texas appeals court decision, Gomez v. State. In November 2012, a woman in El Paso asked a judge to issue a protective order against the defendant, whom she said was stalking her. The defendant never appeared at the hearing, so the judge entered the protective order against him by default.

Among other terms, the protective order required the defendant to stay at least 200 yards away from the complaining witness and avoid communicating with her “in a threatening or harassing manner.” The order was to last two years, until November 2014. In May 2014, prosecutors charged the defendant with a misdemeanor for “knowingly going within 200 yards of the residence of” the complaining witness and threatening to harm her and members of her family.

The defendant ended up pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge, but reserved his right to appeal. Before the appeals court, the defendant maintained his violation of the protective order was not properly classified as a crime at the time of the offense. To be more precise, the plaintiff was charged under an earlier version of the statute, which the Texas legislature repealed in 2015 and replaced with a similar law in a different section of the Penal Code. Both sections declared violating the terms of a protective order a Class A misdemeanor.

In effect, the defendant’s position was that the state prosecuted him “retroactively” under the new statute, which did not take effect until after his alleged offense. The U.S. Constitution prohibits retroactive application of criminal laws. But as the appeals court here explained, this was not a case of retroactive prosecution. Rather, the defendant was tried under the older, now-repealed law. And in any event, both laws criminalized the exact same conduct–violating the terms of a protective order. So the defendant’s conviction stood, along with his 10-day jail sentence.

Speak with a Houston Misdemeanor Crimes Defense Lawyer Today

Although misdemeanor convictions may not carry the same potential for multi-year prison terms like felonies, they can still upend your life significantly. That is why you should always work with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney whenever you are charged with any misdemeanor that may result in a fine or jail time. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need to speak with someone about your case right away.