This article explains what peace bonds are under Texas law.
A peace bond is a court order issued by a justice of the peace designed to keep the peace by protecting someone whose person or property has been threatened—but where harm has yet to occur. The peace bond orders the person who made the threat to provide a bond payable to the State of Texas. If the person who made the threat commits the threatened offense, then they pay the amount of that bond to the State of Texas.
Someone who was threatened files a peace bond complaint and statement of offense with the justice of the peace in that person’s justice of the peace precinct. Then the justice of the peace will issue an arrest warrant for the accused.
The accused can avoid confinement while waiting for the hearing on the peace bond complaint by providing an appearance bond in which the accused states that they will not commit the offense allegedly threatened against the complaining party's person or property, and that the accused will keep the peace with respect to the complaining party and all others until the court hearing happens.
Both the accuser and the complaining party appear before the justice of the peace and present their arguments about the peace bond complaint. If the justice of the peace determines that the offense was intended to be committed, or that the threat was seriously made, the justice will require the accused to post a bond in the amount that the justice believes to be appropriate under the circumstances.
The justice will also order that the accused refrain from committing the threatened offense, as well as maintain the peace with respect to the complaining party and other persons named in the bond, for any amount of time not exceeding one year.
The bond will state that if the accused violates a condition of the bond, then the justice can forfeit the bond and cause the amount of the bond to pay to the State of Texas, as well as punish the accused for contempt.
A contempt finding could result in a fine, confinement of the accused, or both. Along with the imposition of these provisions in the order, the costs of the proceeding will also be charged against the accused. On the other hand, if the justice determines that the peace bond complaint was made without good reason, or that no serious threat was made by the accused, then the justice will order the discharge of the accused and can order that the complaining party pay the costs of the proceeding.
Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 7.01 through 7.18 set out the rules about peace bonds. This chart explaining more about the peace bond process is available from the Texas Justice Court Training Center.
The accused can be prosecuted for a crime for carrying out the threat against the complaining party’s person or property. As with all crimes, the accused can be prosecuted for any criminal activity in which they engage.
A peace bond is only made of paper. It cannot protect the complaining party from someone who does not think or care about consequences, or who is unconcerned about losing bond money or a potential arrest. In addition to having a peace bond issued, it is definitely wise for the complaining party to have a safety plan in place.
You can sometimes get the justice of the peace to issue a peace bond and get a certain level of official protection even though the accused’s conduct does not rise to the level where you could get a protective order, or the conduct does not amount to a crime that can be prosecuted by law enforcement.
Also, there does not have to have a family, household, or dating relationship between the complaining party and the accused.