Can Social Media Breach Protective Orders in Texas?

Clarence Walker

Protective orders such as no-contact and restraining orders are prevalent in the realms of criminal and family law. They often stem from allegations of domestic violence. Understanding these orders is crucial for those affected.

Veteran criminal defense attorney Joann Musick explains, "A no-contact order is usually a condition of a criminal bond and if violated the penalty would be a bond revocation," Musick has served as Bureau Chief and Assistant District Attorney in Houston's Harris County. She further clarifies, "A restraining order is a court order prohibiting whatever contact is described in the order."

Social Media In The Mix

But what happens when social media enters the mix?

Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok provide various communication means. From direct messages to public post comments, interactions are diverse.

If a court order restricts communication with a certain individual, any online interaction may violate it. Blocking or removing the individual from social media accounts is a prudent step. However, the determined might create fake profiles to bypass these blocks, potentially breaking the protective order.

Musick stresses the need for clarity. She notes, "Whether social media contacts violate either order depends on the exact language in the order." She communicated this viewpoint via a Messenger exchange.

But what about unintended online interactions? Could an automated friend request on Instagram or a tag in a Facebook post infringe on a restraining order? If a defendant can prove an algorithm, not personal intent, triggered the action, it could make a difference in legal proceedings.

Legal experts urge caution. Any deliberate online interaction equates to contact and should be avoided.

It's vital to differentiate between restraining orders, no-contact orders, and orders for protection. They might be used interchangeably but can differ significantly. Knowledge of state-specific laws helps in comprehending these orders.

Texan Protective Orders

Texas has four main protective orders:

  • Emergency Protective Orders
  • Temporary Ex Parte Protective Orders
  • Permanent (or Final) Protective Orders
  • Restraining Order
protective orders and social media in texas.

Protective orders and social media in Texas.

Orders For Restraint

The term "protective orders" is often used for "restraining orders." Their nature can vary. For instance, temporary protective orders might restrict actions for a short duration.

Primary uses for protective orders are to thwart family violence, including dating violence, and sexual assaults. Temporary Restraining Orders, mainly used in civil cases, prevent potential immediate harm. This might encompass actions like withdrawing funds or transporting a child out-of-state.

Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) often come into play during familial disputes. They might entail directives like gun surrender or vacating a shared home. Conversely, a no-contact order strictly prohibits communication. This might protect victims of crimes such as domestic violence or stalking.

Virtual and Real Life

The essence? Virtual actions mirror real-life restrictions. Avoiding online contact is essential if face-to-face interactions are prohibited.

Given the blurred lines between online and offline realities, one must tread carefully. As the digital realm impacts our physical existence, those under no-contact orders must be wary. Any potential online misstep might lead to serious real-world repercussions.

When a no-contact order doesn't cite social media explicitly, it's still safer to refrain from online contact. If in doubt, seeking a criminal defense attorney's advice is paramount. Accidentally violating a restraining order is a misdemeanor, potentially leading to further charges and jail time.

By Clarence Walker
Clarence Walker Jr. is a Houston-based Senior Reporter and Associate Editor for HoustonNewsToday. Houston Watch | Substack Politics, Policy, Political News - POLITICO Houston Public Media – Houston Public Media is a non-profit organization broadcasting through a multi-media platform to deliver content with a focus Community Impact | News Associated Press News: Breaking News, Latest Headlines and Videos | AP News Business News Daily: Small Business Solutions & Inspiration -

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