Local judge explains why protective orders are crucial in abuse cases

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter, Jennifer Galvan - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Protective orders are meant to protect you from a person who is harassing or abusing you.

A Devine woman who was found dead had a protective order against her ex-boyfriend, the man police say kidnapped her. This sparked the question: Was that protective order enough?

Jessica Sanchez and Jorge Jaramillo were found dead this week.

A local judge is reminding domestic violence victims that a protective order is a valuable tool.

“It's not a bulletproof vest, but it's a tool,” said Judge Mary Lou Alvarez, with the 25th Civic District Court.

Alvarez said protective orders placed against abusers are important empowering tools for domestic violence victims. She said she doesn't want victims to be discouraged from applying for protective orders because it's an important step that could land an abuser in jail if violated.

“It puts it in black and white,” Alvarez said. “It's not going to keep everybody away. Not everybody is going to be mindful of that, but a lot of people are.”

Alvarez said there are three types of protective orders in Texas:

  • There's a Magistrate Emergency Protective Order, in which a magistrate judge can request a criminal case after a defendant is charged with some type of domestic assault.
  • A temporary protective order and a two-year protective order are short and long-term protections issued by the civil court once the victim applies for them.

Every process is different depending on where you file. You'll always need police report case numbers or evidence of abuse.

It’s always important to take pictures of evidence of abuse, such as bruises, blood and lacerations, and it’s important to screenshot abusive call logs or text messages.

There are several different ways you can file for protective orders. You can hire a private attorney, go through the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office or make use of advocacy groups, such as the Bexar County Family Justice Center or Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid.

Depending how you file, some processes can take several months.

If your alleged abuser denies the abuse accusations, you could end up in court fighting for the judge to grant that order.

Alvarez said protection orders are issued on a case-by-case basis but most offer similar protections.

“Can't harass, can't threaten, can't assault, keeps a physical barrier of X number of feet and X number of yards away from school, residence or work,” Alvarez said.

The minute the protections are violated, she said, it’s imperative that the victim call police, as this could lead to an immediate arrest.

Alvarez said once a protective order is in place, victims must also make safety plans.

“Make sure your neighbor knows that you have a protective order in place. Make sure your neighbors know what kind of car your batterer can be driving,” Alvarez said.

First-time violators of a protective order can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, it can land them in jail in up to a year and with a fine of up to $5,000.

Alvarez said if an assault occurs along with that violation, abusers can face felony charges.

Click here for a link to sections 25.071 and 25.072 of the Texas Penal Code that describe those penalties in detail.

There are several resources listed on KSAT's domestic violence page including free legal counsel, shelters and nonprofits that can help victims through the process.

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