What is an Emergency Protective Order (EPO)?”
An emergency protective order (EPO) is a criminally enforceable court order that may be ordered by a magistrate, ex parte, after an arrest for offenses involving family violence. These orders restrict one’s ability to be within 200 feet of the protected locations, which can include the residence, place of employment, or business of the protected person. They also may prohibit possession of firearms, the commission of further acts of family violence, and communicate with the protected person and their family members. An EPO is automatically granted if the offense for which the person was arrested involved serious bodily injury or the use of a deadly weapon.
An EPO will last between 31-91 days. If there are allegations of the use of a deadly weapon, the minimum period is 61 days. After the initial term, an alleged victim may apply for a longer protective order. The petition is served on the respondent party and they are given an opportunity to respond.
Bond Conditions After an Arrest
Even without an EPO, there may be conditions of bond that restrict a defendant’s ability to contact the alleged victim. The judge or magistrate has the discretion to order conditions to ensure the safety of the alleged victim. They may limit contact with the alleged victim, either by ordering no contact or restricting contact to exclude threatening or harassing contact. Bond conditions last as the defendant is out of jail on bond or until they are amended. These conditions are often some of the same conditions as the EPO, but they last much longer. If the defendant violates these court orders, they can have their bond held insufficient. That results in a warrant being issued and a defendant being held in custody while awaiting trial.
There can be strict penalties for violating the terms of a protective order. The first offense is a misdemeanor that can be punished by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. After two convictions, the third offense becomes a third degree felony. If an assault or stalking has been committed in violation of the protective order, even if that assault is a misdemeanor, the protective order violation is a third degree felony. If a protective order is violated twice within a twelve-month period, the offense may be charged as a third degree felony. Those felony charges carry a range of punishment of two-years to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
You Can Challenge EPOs or Arrests for Charges for Violating One
As the subject of an EPO, you have rights as well. The court cannot restrict your rights unfairly. You have the right to be heard too. There are some cases where the alleged victim is using an EPO to gain an advantage, such as in a custody dispute. If you believe that the EPO was unfairly issued or if it is overly restrictive, you can request that the order be amended or modified. An attorney can petition the court for a hearing and demonstrate to the court that you do not present a danger, is unworkable, or unfairly restricts your rights.
Courts take violation of bond conditions and protective orders very seriously. It is important to seek legal counsel if you are alleged to have violated either of these court orders.
Call a Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you have been arrested for domestic violence or are facing an allegation that you violated an EPO, you need legal help immediately. Call the attorneys at Cofer Luster Law Firm today at (682) 777-3366 or contact us online to learn about your legal rights.