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What is an Emergency Protective Order?

An Emergency Protective Order (EPO) is a court order that you can obtain that is enforceable in criminal court. It would be issued against a person who has acted in an abusive manner towards you or a person living in your household. Typically, an EPO is issued following a family violence arrest. An EPO can be issued by a judge without the victim of the abuse being present in court.

The law in Texas holds that an EPO can last for at least 31 days and for a maximum of 91 days. The circumstances that are relevant to your case will determine the length of the EPO’s effectiveness. For instance, if a deadly weapon was utilized in the commission of the abusive act, then an EPO must go into effect for at least 61 days.

You can request an EPO only at the time that an arrest for a crime involving family violence or sexual assault occurs. These orders are temporary and are based on emergency circumstances being in place. Their length cannot be extended beyond the 91-day limit that we discussed in the prior paragraph.

A criminal court may decide that an EPO is necessary to be handed down when the abuser has been arrested for a crime that involves serious bodily injury (as defined in the Texas Penal Code) or the abuser used a deadly weapon in order to commit the assault.

What behavior does an EPO prohibit a person from doing?

Essentially the EPO is put in place to prevent the crime of stalking. The language in the EPO states that the offender cannot communicate directly with you or with a member of your family or your household in a harassing or threatening manner. Additionally, the offender will not be able to come within two hundred yards of your home, your place of employment or your child's school/daycare.

Who will assist you with getting an EPO?

Before you even have a chance to hire a private attorney, attorneys with the county or city where you reside will contact you within a few hours of the offender being arrested. That attorney will discuss with you whatever options you have legally spoken and will help you to build a safety plan to ensure that violence does not take place in your home again.

If the attorney determines that you are facing immediate danger then an EPO may be recommended by him or her. That attorney will then go forth to the judge and will prepare any documentation that is needed for the order to be granted, including the actual order itself. That attorney will follow up with you on the progress of the EPO application and can answer other questions that you may have in regard to your situation.

Keep in mind, that once your EPO has been granted the attorney will no longer be representing you. As such it is recommended that you look into hiring an attorney to continue to represent you once the EPO is granted. Specifically, if you are going to file for divorce from your abuser then you absolutely should hire a private attorney to represent you and your rights in court.

The importance of safety plans in the aftermath of a violent relationship

If you are in the unfortunate position of being involved in a violent, abusive relationship then you need to have a safety plan in place to help keep you and your family safe from threats of harm. By creating a safety plan you are anticipating a problem that has not yet occurred and are planning on how to handle it ahead of time. You can create a safety plan and have no intention of leaving the relationship with the person who has acted in an abusive manner towards you.

The remainder of today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will focus on the subject of safety plans. Specifically, we are going to look at the steps that go towards the creation of a safety plan as well as how to handle yourself after leaving an abusive/dangerous relationship.

Stage One: Emergency Plan

Before the situation escalates to violence, you should do your best to anticipate your partner’s actions and attempt to leave before violence occurs. A good way to determine whether or not violence is going to occur is if you have been the victim of verbal threats in the past. If you are being threatened in an abusive manner and are concerned for your safety, the best thing you can do is move away from rooms with just one point of entry/exit. Move towards the front or back door to your home.

When your partner is not at home you can test doors, windows, and stairwells to determine what the most efficient points of exit/entry are. It is better to do this now rather than to wait until the last possible moment. Your problem solving and analytical skills will not be at their best, most likely, when you are in the heat of an altercation with your partner. Your fight or flight senses will take over and it is unlikely that you will be able to process information as well as when you are by yourself.

Next, you should be prepared to call the police if you are threatened by your partner or have already been assaulted. If your partner attempts to grab the phone from you or otherwise prevent you from contacting 9-1-1, you should know that he or she is committing an additional crime by doing so. Do not wait to get medical attention. If emergency responders offer you the medical attention you should take it. It is possible that once you press charges against your partner that a victim's defense fund (or similar program) will pay for your medical care if you do not have insurance. Document any injuries that you have suffered and been sure to examine yourself in the days following a violent incident because bruising can sometimes take a few days to fully develop.

Finally, it is vitally important that you show your child what to do and where to go for help before the need to do so arises. Your children are not there to protect you, though they may have an instinct to do so. You can work with your kids to develop a safe word or code that when you say that particular word or phrase they know to leave your home as quickly as possible. You will need to alert neighbors or a support system that you have in your community to be able to take in your kids for a short period of time. Help older children to memorize your phone number and the number to 9-1-1. If all else fails, show the kids where safe places to hide in your house are- such as under the bed, in a closet or behind a sturdy piece of furniture.

Developing a safety plan

If you are inquiring about services that may be available to you as far as help with protecting yourself are concerned you should not have that information mailed to your home. If you do, you risk your partner becoming aware of it. Instead, have that mail go to a friend’s home, a PO box that you have in your name only or a parent’s address. You can still receive the information that you need and will minimize the risk that you bear in doing so.

Keeping an extra set of keys handy is a smart move to make. You can give the keys to a family member or friend if you need to. If you have older children then they can hang on to the extra set of keys in case they need to enter your home for personal items if they are made to live with a friend or relative for safety’s sake. You can go ahead and make copies of any important paperwork that you may need in the future and keep the copies at a friend or family member’s home, as well.

Keep a journal of violent incidents that occur between yourself and your partner. The date, time, location and nature of your injuries should be specified. Photographing the injuries is a good thing to do. These journals and photos can potentially be admitted into evidence in a trial or hearing so it is wise to keep track of the documents/photos that you create.

If you are active on social media (as most people are in 2019), you should check whatever privacy settings that particular social media platform offers. Adjust them to hide whatever current status you have as well as any photos or updates you provide via social media. Do not allow the social media application to be able to track where you are and show it to people who are in your network. Basically, you want to be able to use social media to allow friends and family to know where you are but to also keep your partner from tracking you down based on your posts and profile updates.

In regard to your home computer, you need to have it password protected. The same guidance applies to your cellular phone. You can and should change your password to each of those devices with regularity. Do not use the same password for any two accounts. If you get a new device, you need to update it with a new password. In the event that your spouse sends you messages, emails or text messages that are threatening you need to save those. Once you have an attorney, he or she will be able to organize them in order to produce them as evidence in a hearing or trial against your partner in the future.

Next, be sure to take with you important documents and papers when you leave your home. Your driver’s license, photo ID, passport, birth certificates (for you and your kids) as well as financial documents like pay stubs. If you own your vehicle be sure to bring the title with you wherever you are going. Keep a certified copy of your protective order (if you have one) with you at all times. Your employer and your child’s school need to have a copy on file. Be prepared to contact the police if your partner violates any term of the protective order.

After leaving your home what should you do?

Talk to an attorney or a person that you trust. If your partner attempts to file their own family law case against you then you need to be aware of that. You can check the family court records by accessing the district clerk’s website for the county that you reside in.

If you own your home you need to re-key the house, install a security system or put in cheaper motion sensors if the security system overhaul is not financially possible. Make sure that there are no easy ways to enter your house when you are not there. Motion sensing lights for the outside of the home can be very effective in keeping people away. If you are renting your home you should talk to your landlord about your situation so that he or she can take steps to safeguard their property.

In the future, if you need to meet with your abusive partner you should do so in public. I have had clients do visitation exchanges for children in the parking lot of a McDonalds or Wal-Mart. Some clients have even gone so far as to meet to do these exchanges at police stations that are close to where they live.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas CPS defense Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding CPS, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX CPS defense lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our cps defenselawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles cps cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, KingwoodTomballThe WoodlandsHouston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris CountyMontgomery CountyLiberty County, Chambers CountyGalveston CountyBrazoria CountyFort Bend County and Waller County.

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