If you or a family member faces a court order, you should know that failure to abide by that court order can bring a warrant for your arrest.
That has been the case with former University of Texas and National Football League free safety Earl Thomas, for whom an arrest warrant was issued recently in Austin.
The arrest affidavit from police said Thomas allegedly violated a protective court order by sending threatening messages to a woman–his soon-to-be ex-wife–concerning her and their children, according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman.
Police said Thomas, who’d played professionally for the Seattle Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens, recently began threatening the woman and her children via text messages. These included one sent on April 18, which stated that he’d obtained 2 handguns, followed by another threatening message later that day.
Such contact would violate a May 2021 protective order issued by a Travis County civil court judge after Thomas’s wife filed for divorce in November of 2020. The court order stated that Thomas could communicate with the woman only by means of a co-parenting phone application.
Police said the woman told them that Thomas refuses to download the phone app and instead reaches out to her by phone. She also said he tends to arrive unannounced at places she frequently visits.
The arrest warrant, issued on April 27, officially charges Thomas with a 3rd-degree felony for violating the protective order at least 2 times within 1 year. It’s not known if Thomas has been arrested yet.
Thomas, 33, played for the UT Longhorns from 2008 through 2009. He then declined his final 2 years of college football eligibility and was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks.
He played for that team through 2018, winning a Super Bowl with them in the 2013 season. Thomas then signed with the Baltimore Ravens and played 1 season for that team in 2019, but he was released from the team in August of 2020 after reportedly fighting with a teammate during practice.
He is a 7-time Pro Bowl selection in the NFL.
What is a protective order or restraining order?
As for what is a protective order or what’s known as a restraining order in Texas, essentially, these are legal orders which require a person to do or not do certain things. But there are differences between the two.
For one thing, police can enforce a protective order, but police have no authority over a restraining order.
A restraining order, for example, might be issued in a divorce case to prevent either or both parties from withdrawing funds from a bank account or from selling assets while the divorce proceeding is ongoing.
A protective order is different. Under Texas law involving family violence, court orders are known as protective orders when they involve cases of domestic abuse or family violence.
Types of protective orders
There are 3 types of such protective orders in Texas:
- A temporary ex parte protective order means a judge believes an abuser presents a clear and present danger of family violence and thus establishes constraints on the abuser, such as requiring that he or she not contact the victim. Though a temporary order—which might last for just 20 days—such protective orders are immediate and can be renewed.
- A permanent (final) protective order can endure for as long as 2 years. In fact, it may be extended beyond that. But after 1 year, an abuser can file a motion to discontinue the order by means of a hearing on its merits.
- An emergency protective order (EPO), also known as a magistrate’s order of emergency protection (MOEP), involves a criminal case, unlike the first 2 types of protective orders, which involve civil cases and do not involve an abuser being arrested.
This kind of “stay away” protective order is issued by a criminal court when an alleged abuser has been arrested for such a crime as family violence, sexual abuse, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking or indecent assault. It means that the alleged abuser must stay at least a certain distance from the victim (usually 100 yards) and from their home, car, school or job.
Get an experienced criminal defense lawyer
If you face a protective order hearing in Texas, you need a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side.
In part that’s because the burden of proof for a protective order to be issued in Texas involves establishing a “preponderance of evidence” in favor of the accuser. That is a lower burden of proof than in a criminal trial, which requires establishing proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
A criminal defense lawyer may be all that stands between you and a prison sentence and hefty fine, so it’s immensely important that you act quickly to gain such legal support.
If your family needs legal help regarding a protective order or other criminal legal matters in Houston or elsewhere in Harris County, Montgomery County or Fort Bend County, contact us today at the award-winning Neal Davis Law Firm. Call us now to arrange a consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.