No-contact orders and restraining orders frequently exist at the intersection of criminal and family law. Although both can occur in other situations like stalking and harassment, charges of domestic violence are typically the root cause of a no-contact order. No-contact orders may not be fully understood by their recipients.
“A no-contact order is usually a condition of a criminal bond and if violated the penalty would be a bond revocation,” says Veteran criminal defense attorney Joann Musick. Musick is also a former Bureau Chief as an Assistant District Attorney with Harris County District Attorney Office in Houston, Texas. She was also a Division Chief and Sex Crimes Division Chief at Harris County DA Office.
“A restraining order is a court order prohibiting whatever contact is described in the order,” Musick added.
Now this brings us to social media contact when a person is under a no-contact or restraining order in Texas, which means they should not contact their spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, a person they assaulted, their sugar daddy, or sugar mama etc.
On numerous social media networks that are widely used, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and others, there are many ways to communicate with others. For example, private direct messages, public comments on posts, sharing a response to a post, and being listed as a temporary story viewer are all options available to users.
A person’s contact with someone on social media may be a violation of a protection order if there is a court order preventing communication with that person, which includes restricting contact online.
Therefore, aggressive measures are advised to block their accounts or de-list them from a follower list. This can allay any immediate worries about contact via social media, but bear in mind that a miscreant might make a phony account in an effort to regain access to social media sites. A protective order would be broken by such attempts.
Attorney Musick said a violation can happen only if social media is added.
“Whether social media contacts violate either order depends on the exact language in the order,” Musick explained in a Messenger email.
So the next concern is: if a person accused of domestic violence against their spouse or significant other, a friend or relative, happens to send an apology via social media is it a violation of a no contact or restraining order?
And what if a friend request is automatically sent by Google’s/social media algorithm(no fault of their own) from the person accused in a no-contact or restraining order for another person on Instagram, perhaps? Or by tagging someone in a Facebook post, for example?
Legal experts say that if a defendant under a no-contact or restraining order can prove that when his/her Facebook or Instagram account sends a friend request to the accuser/victim in the restraining order case against them it is important to show the algorithms were the culprit, not the defendant.
When it comes to no-contact orders, it is always best to be safe than sorry. Social media interaction is absolutely contact and should be avoided if done intentionally.
Sadly, it can be challenging to distinguish between restraining orders, no-contact orders, and orders for protection. These phrases might be used interchangeably at times.
Often the terms have different meanings and appear in various situations (such as divorce cases versus criminal trials). Understanding state laws will help understand what the court order means because different states have different legal jargon.
Four Primary Protective Orders in Texas
- Emergency Protective Orders
- Temporary Ex Parte Protective Orders
- Permanent(or Final) Protective Orders
- Restraining Order
The term “protective orders” or “orders of protection” is frequently used by states to refer to what we used to think of as restraining orders, and these come in several forms. For instance, a temporary (or emergency) protective order may be obtained against a person and may prevent them from performing certain actions, such as entering a shared residence, for a brief period (at most a few days.
A protective order is an order that is most commonly used to prevent acts of :
- family violence (including violence in a dating relationship) and sexual assaults.
- Temporary Restraining Orders are used in the civil context to avoid some sort of immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage.
- Temporary Restraining Orders in a civil family case can bind the other parent or spouse from certain conduct like transporting a child out-of-state, unenrolling them from school, withdrawing funds, taking out loans, or disposing of property.
Temporary Restraining Order
Temporary restraining orders (TROs) are frequently issued during domestic disputes or in divorce proceedings. No-contact orders can, but are not always, included in TROs. A TRO won’t fully stop contact, but it might ask the defendant to surrender their gun or just leave the house.
However, a no-contact order is precisely what it says it is. It forbids any kind of communication. A domestic partner, children, or a victim of crime might all be the protected parties in a no-contact order. For criminal defendants who have been charged with a felony like domestic violence, stalking, harassment, or sexual assault, a no-contact order is more typical.
Breaking the Rules
There is no set rule that specifies what each person should do to stay within bounds; rather, the circumstances that gave rise to the no-contact order will determine the conditions of contact or lack thereof. However, one rule is that if something is prohibited in the real world, it is probably also prohibited online. Sending emails, texts, and social media posts is very perilous if phone conversations and in-person meetings are forbidden.
We are constantly warned that what we do online can and does affect our “real lives.” Teenagers are informed that colleges will monitor their online postings. The caution of prospective employees is necessary because careless remarks may harm their prospects of landing a job.
The same unquestionably applies to someone who is under a no-contact order. Perpetrators should not commit virtual crimes in place of actual ones and think they will get away with it. There is currently little separation between the physical world and the internet. Everyone can experience the effects of their online activities everywhere since the virtual world is real.
What if a No-Contact Order Doesn’t Mention Social Media Contact?
Assuming social media has previously been a source of concern, a no-contact order may specifically address it. However, it is still recommended to avoid contacting someone even if a no-contact order does not specifically name social media accounts. Before taking any action that could jeopardize their future, it is wise to seek legal counsel from a criminal defense attorney, as with any potential criminal case. Even accidentally breaking a restraining order is a misdemeanor in and of itself. Significant penalties, such as extra charges and jail time, may follow.
Legal Affairs Reporter & Content Creator Clarence Walker can be reached at [email protected]