Monica's Law established a protective order registry in Texas. Learn about the types of orders that are entered into the registry, who can access the registry, and what to do if you need a protective order.
What is Monica’s Law?
On May 7, 2019, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 325 (Texas Gov't Code 72.151 – 72.158). The legislation established a protective order registry: a statewide public database containing the names of people who have had protective orders filed and issued against them. Protective order applications and protective orders entered on or after October 15, 2020, must be in the registry.
The purpose of the bill was to close the information gap between counties and law enforcement agencies, prevent future instances of domestic violence, and maintain a database to alert local authorities to the filing and issuance of prior protective orders Texas-wide. It also created and assigned duties to court staff (court clerks) to enter and post all protective orders.
What is the Protective Order Registry called?
The Protective Order Registry of Texas is called PROTECT, and it can be found at https://protect.txcourts.gov. The Texas Office of Court Administration maintains it.
What types of orders must be entered in the registry?
Orders that must be entered into the system include:
- Applications for protective orders,
- Temporary ex parte protective orders,
- Final protective orders, and
- Magistrate's orders for emergency protection.
This list was expanded beyond domestic violence to include all protective orders and magistrate's orders for emergency protection for sexual assault, stalking, trafficking, indecent assault, and cases involving bias or prejudice.
When must a protective order be entered into the registry?
All applications and protective orders, including images of the actual applications and orders, must be entered into the registry within 24 hours of issuance.
Who can use PROTECT?
SB 325 created three types of users who can have access to the registry:
- Authorized users include court clerks and other people who can submit, modify, or remove records in the registry. Authorized users have access to all records.
- Restricted users include district and criminal attorneys, county attorneys, municipal attorneys, designees of the attorney general, and police officers. Restricted users can view images of applications and orders and all other information entered by authorized users.
- The public does have access to the registry, but only if the victim opts to have the information viewable to the public. The information includes the Respondent’s name, year of birth, court, county, cause number, race/ethnicity, date ordered issued, date order served, date order vacated, or date order expired. The public does NOT have access to actual court documents for applications or orders.
Can a protective order be deleted from the system?
A protective order will never be deleted from the system. If the order is vacated or expires, it will be noted in the system but not removed.
Can the public access all applications and orders entered in the registry?
No. The public does not have access to all the applications and orders filed in the courts.
The statute says that the protected person must request and allow the court to grant the public the ability to access the information, meaning that the protected person must choose to allow the public to view only basic information. The protected person also can remove public access to the information that was the subject of the person’s earlier approved request.
How does this law expand access to information?
The creation of the registry now allows restricted users access to information that they wouldn’t have had before. The registry acts as an alert to prior applications and orders filed in other counties. It lets them see the applications and orders to get more information about past instances of violence, threats, and other alarming behaviors.
What do I do if I am being abused, threatened, or stalked?
If you are in immediate danger, contact your local police department. Alert them about the abuse, threats, violence, or stalking, and file a police report. Tell the police officer taking your case that you know about the registry and that you want them to access it to see whether the person hurting you has had a prior Protective Order filed against them.
If prior protective orders have been filed against an abuser, that information may help law enforcement authorities or prosecutors. Plus, an abuser may face harsher penalties.
What do I do if I need a protective order?
To get a protective order, you must prove to the court that your abuser has been violent towards you in the recent past and that it is likely that they will be violent towards you in the future.
This is generally done in the form of an affidavit you sign in front of a notary. Generally, a court would want to know if and how you have been abused or threatened in the last six months. But abuse going back prior to six months may also be used. Bring as much evidence as you can, including photos, texts, or recordings. You may also have witnesses—people who might have seen your injuries or have seen the abuse themselves.
What does a protective order do for me?
If you get a protective order, the court can order your abuser to stay away from you, your place of work, and your home. The court can order the abuser to do or refrain from doing other actions to prevent more violence.
A protective order is generally good for two years. It can last longer based on the severity of the abuse and the type of protective order. Law enforcement can arrest abusers who violate protective orders. If you need help with a protective order, contact your local prosecutor's office, family violence center, private attorney, or legal aid.
Who is Monica Deming?
Monica’s Law is named for Monica Deming, murdered on November 29, 2015, by her ex-boyfriend in Odessa, Texas. During their dating relationship, Monica began to notice red flags and disturbing behavior from him. He hacked her email and social media accounts, stalked her, and threatened violence. These actions led to a breakup that escalated the terrifying and threatening behavior. Monica tried to alert the authorities several times but didn’t receive much help.
Unknown to Monica and the law enforcement authorities in her county, her murderer already had a history of abuse and dating violence. He had threatened other women’s lives, including his ex-wife’s. Court records later showed that he had two prior protective orders against him from two different women in Texas, one in 2003 and another in 2012.
Those orders were issued in different counties in Texas, and there was no mechanism for communication between county law enforcement agencies at that time. No law existed that would have closed the information gap between Texas counties, alerting her local law enforcement agencies and other authorities of prior protective orders in other counties in the state.
This article tells you how to get a protective order and protective orders can do.
This article explains safety planning for people in or leaving abusive relationships.
This article provides information on emergency protective orders.
This article briefly explains sexual assault protective orders.
This article explains how to apply for a sexual assault protective order.
This article explains what usually happens in court when you apply for a Sexual Assault Protective Order.
This article provides information on what to do after the court grants you a protective order.
This article tells you about getting divorced when there has been family violence.
This article provides information on domestic violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender relationships.