What is a Magistrate’s Emergency Protective Order – And How Do I End It?

May 12, 2020

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Short Answer:

An Emergency Protective Order (“EPO”) is an ex parte “keep away” order by a magistrate judge normally issued upon an arrest for family violence.  They vary in length and scope.  You are able to modify them but most judges want a “cooling off” period even if both parties want the order to be gone.

Let’s decode some of that legalese — “Ex Parte” means one party or one side is present in court and not the other;

A “Magistrate” is typically not a full-blown judge for the purposes of your case and often have the limited responsibility of setting a bond, signing a warrant, or in these cases — signing emergency protective orders.

In More Depth

An EPO is governed by Article 17.292 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.  The statute is long but fairly concise.  Typically the most daunting condition is the one requiring the accused to stay a certain distance from the accuser and often other immediate family members such as children.  A protective order doesn’t always prohibit communication or contact.  You have to read the fine-print carefully.  If you have any questions it is always best to ask a lawyer.

Violating a Protective Order

It is a criminal offense to violate a protective order.  The Order is legally required to have language explicitly stating this.  Ironically, winning an assault case is often easier than winning an accompanying violation of a protective order charge which might accompany it.

Unintended Hardships and Consequences – For Everyone

While it’s understandable strangers to a couple’s marriage or relationship would want to keep “warring” parties separate for a cooling off period, unintended consequences frequently do more to harm the relationship than good.  Having one person stay in a hotel can be financially draining and often it turns an otherwise efficient household into a single-parent situation with the “victim” bearing excessive challenges and responsibilities without their partner.

Further, not allowing communication also doesn’t allow for easy reconciliation either.

Amending an EPO

An Emergency Protective Order can be amended.  Understandably most magistrates are reluctant to undo or amend a protective order if both parties are not agreed.  The magistrate doesn’t know the parties and only typically knows if things go south and someone is physically hurt after the EPO is modified — they get blamed.  It’s not uncommon for a magistrate to either table or sit on a motion to modify — even if it’s agreed — to allow one or both parties to cool off.

Magistrate Emergency Protective Order FAQs

You can read more about EPOs here.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law and has been designated as a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters in 2019.


Can You Talk on Your Cell Phone While Driving in Texas?

May 5, 2020

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Yes, unless you are under 18 years old or are within 6 months of getting your driver’s license, or in a school zone.

Between 90 and 100 cities and municipalities have their own restrictions too which would tighten the law even more.

Here’s What Is Illegal

It’s illegal to “send or receive electronic messages” while driving — so that would include texting while driving, social media, or any way of transmitting a message to another person.

What Type of Crime is it to Text and Drive?

Normally it’s just a traffic offense.  But if the driving is bad enough, it could be charged as reckless driving.  If someone is hurt or injured, it could be prosecuted as an assaultive offense.  If it causes death, it could be prosecuted as criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter.

Our office doesn’t handle simple traffic offenses — but we do handle more severe distracted driving charges.  You can read here about those.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He was designated as a Texas Super Lawyer by Martindale-Hubbell in 2019.

 


What is a Magistrate’s Order for Emergency Protection?

November 18, 2019

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

These are known as Emergency Protective Orders or EPOs.  They can be extremely disruptive, costly, and exacerbate emotional distress of the entire family on top of the havoc a domestic violence arrest already inflicts.

Texas law allows a police officer making an arrest to ask a magistrate judge for an EPO.  The officer does not need the consent of anyone else including the complaining witness to seek the Order.

Violation of the Order can be a serious misdemeanor as well.  Each Emergency Protective Order is different from the next.  Don’t assume an EPO prohibits or doesn’t prohibit certain activities.

Most of these orders require the accused to stay a certain distance away from the alleged victim and other family members.  They also often prohibit either direct or indirect communication.

Direct communication is typically construed as phone calls, text messages or communications on social media.  Indirect communication is typically where the Defendant has a friend — often a mutual friend – make contact with the complaining witness.  Both are normally violations.

The length of the EPO can vary but for most assault cases in Collin County they may last either 91 or 61 days.

An EPO Can Be Destructive

Following an Emergency Protective Orders can require a person live in a hotel or other temporary accommodations because they are prohibited from going to their residence.  Two months in a hotel means two months of paying double for housing.  Further, where a couple has children, one parent — usually the complaining witness — is saddled with 100% of the childcare for that time as well.  While the goal is to allow a couple time away to that emotions and physical conflict cool it can have the effect of throwing a family further in chaos.

How do I Get My Stuff?

EPOs create immediate logistical headaches.  If you can’t call your spouse or can’t communicate with them through a friend — then how are you supposed to get your clothes, work laptop, or medications?

Most Protective Orders provide for some type of safe harbor within the first 24 hours to get these things arranged.  Read the fine print carefully.  You may be allowed to have a friend or representative get whatever you need quickly.

What to Be Careful about with Emergency Protective Orders

Always make sure you read the details carefully — and if you have any questions at all about the specific provisions of your EPO be sure to ask a lawyer.

Communicating with the protected person while under an EPO can lead to lots of problems.  Frequently it is the victim reaching out to the Defendant — but no matter — the Defendant still commits an offense by engaging in that communication.

What Can A Lawyer Do?

A Lawyer Can Communicate Directly with the Alleged Victim

I’ve yet to see a protective order without language exempting the lawyer from the communication prohibition.  This is because lawyers have legal and ethical duties to investigate their case.  Don’t expect your lawyer to be an on-going courier or go-between, however, your lawyer can assist in coordinating necessary issues in addition to planning towards long-term goals of your case.

A Lawyer Can Help Get the Order Modified

Most judges will modify a protective order so long as everyone is in agreement — usually both spouses or both persons involved in the altercation.  The magistrate may drag their feet or do it slowly so as to allow the parties a colling down period but most magistrates don’t wish to impose the additional hardship an EPO can cause.

 

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law and is licensed to practice in the State of Texas.

 


Do I Need a Lawyer for Domestic Assault?

November 16, 2019

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Absolutely.

Politicians in Austin frequently try to impress their constituents by getting tougher, and tougher, and tougher with these cases.  The result are laws which seem to get worse and worse and are filled with trap doors designed to punish people forever.

Machine-Type Prosecution

Prosecution in these types of cases tends to be delegated to a specific division of most larger DA’s offices. Their approach is often a one-size-fits-all and is dictated by policy and their theories about domestic violence rather than the facts of any specific case.  Some prosecutors will hear your side of the story out — and many others will pretend to hear you out.  What the prosecutor really needs to do is fear they will lose if you took the case to trial.  A person without a lawyer is definitely at a disadvantage.

The Law is Complex

Though the politicians in Austin and the prosecutors might feel as though everyone accused is guilty — the good news is the framers of the U.S. Constitution didn’t.  There are strong constitutional protections in Assault/ Family Violence “AFV” cases from your right to confront witnesses under the 6th Amendment.

Also, there are several common defense which often apply in the form of self-defense or consent.  Knowing how these defenses apply and work in a courtroom is not simple either.

Beware of Long-Term Trap Doors

AFV cases are laden with traps designed to ensnare those accused into pleading guilty.  The state normally tries to levy an “affirmative finding of family violence” even when someone gets the case reduced or takes deferred adjudication.  This finding can enhance future allegations to felonies, can prevent firearm ownership, and can even prevent future adoption… but not much of this is advertised on the front end.

Also – there are restrictions on hiding these cases from the public even where you’ve successfully completed a deferred adjudication which, again, can be very legally complex.

You Need A Lawyer

If you read the rest of my blog posts then you can see I’m not big on scare tactics.  There are probably cases here and there where you might not need a lawyer.  This isn’t one of them.  Domestic assault is one of several legislative flash-points in Austin.  Don’t do this alone!

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He is a Licensed Attorney in the State of Texas.


Can I Get Arrested for Texting Someone?

October 29, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

No, you can’t get arrested for texting someone in Texas but there are several exceptions.

When it is Illegal to text someone in Texas:

  • If you’re the subject of a Protective Order Issued by a Court

You’ll know if this is the case.  The law requires you to have notice and protective orders are normally issued to people arrested and released for offenses such as assault against a family member or other crimes against family members.  Protective orders commonly have “no contact” provisions in them.

  • Threating Messages

It is a crime to communicate something to someone (in any way) which places them in imminent fear of serious bodily injury or death.  You can read the entire statute on terroristic threats and assault by threat here.  The statute extends to threats made which could affect public safety.

  • Harassment

Sending repeated communications is an offense if it is done with the intent to annoy, alarm, abuse, harass, embarrass or offend another.  You can read the entire statute here.

Free Speech Issue

Sending text messages is a freedom of speech issue protected by the First Amendment.  This is why — in the abstract — it is perfectly legal to do it the vast majority of the time.  Your rights under the bill of rights are not absolute however.

The Government CAN limit your right to be free from search and seizure in some instances, they CAN limit your right to bear arms in some instances, and they CAN limit your right to free speech in some instances as they’ve done here.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice.  For legal advice about any circumstance you should consult an attorney directly.