Civil Section

The Civil Section of the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office has responsibilities in several areas:
  • Protective Orders
  • Juvenile Cases
  • Child Abuse Cases filed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services
  • Involuntary Mental Commitments
  • Involuntary Retardation Commitments
  • Guardianships of Incapacitated Persons when the State requests to be named guardian .
The attorneys and staff also try to direct the public who need information in general legal matters. At present, there are eight attorneys, four secretaries, one part-time employee, and a volunteer who provides services in the Department.

Protective Orders

A Protective Order. . .
  • Orders a person not to commit any more family violence.
  • Orders a person not to come within a certain distance of where the victim lives and works and of the victim's children, their home, school, day care or babysitter.
  • Orders a person not to communicate with the victim indirectly in a way that is harassing or threatening.
  • Prevents a person from harassing, annoying, alarming, abusing, tormenting or embarrassing the victim or a member of the victim's family or household.
  • If the parties are still living together, the protective order requires the respondent to move out.

Who is Entitled to a Protective Order?

The person who committed the family violence against the victim must be either
  • Related to the victim by blood or marriage
  • Currently living with the victim or must have been part of the household at some time.
  • Someone with whom the victim has had a child
  • Someone with whom the victim has or has had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature
  • The victim of a sexual assault

How to Apply

The person requesting the protective order (the applicant) will be required to fill out a simple application form giving us information about the applicant and the person against whom the protective order will be directed (the respondent). An attorney will interview the applicant and gather all the facts and information regarding the case.

What Information Do We Need?

In order to apply for a Protective Order, we need the following:
  • A police report if there is one
  • A photograph of the respondent, if possible
  • A statement from the applicant describing what type of violence has occurred
  • A current address or map for the respondent. This is an absolute requirement
  • An applicant does not need to have all the information requested before coming to our office.

Protective Order Procedures

Once the paperwork is prepared, a protective order hearing will be scheduled in two (2) weeks to give the Sheriff's Office time to serve the respondent. However, if the papers are not delivered (served) to the respondent, the case will be reset again for two (2) weeks, and again, if necessary.

The Sheriff's Office will hand-deliver the paperwork to the respondent. The paperwork consists of an application for the protective order, the sworn statement signed in our office describing the violence, and a Temporary Ex Parte Order to keep the respondent from bothering the applicant until the hearing date. This includes keeping the respondent away from the applicant’s home (if applicable) and job.

If the respondent is served, the court will hear the case. If the respondent is not served, the judge cannot hear the case. An attorney from the District Attorney’s Office will go with the applicant to court to present the case to the judge and to talk to the respondent or the respondent’s attorney.

If the respondent agrees to the conditions of the protective order, an Agreed Protective Order will be issued. If the respondent does not show, the applicant automatically gets a protective order. If the respondent denies the charges, a hearing will be held in front of a Judge who will decide if the applicant should get the protective order.

Once the applicant receives the Protective Order, the respondent may be arrested for bothering the applicant or going near the residence. Once granted, a protective order lasts two years.

Juvenile Cases

The Civil Section prosecutes juvenile cases in which the offender is 10-16 years of age. In Texas, a 17 year-old who commits a criminal offense is considered an adult. When a case is filed on a juvenile, the case is set for a hearing. If the juvenile is found to be delinquent or a child is in need of supervision, the court may place the juvenile on probation at home or at a juvenile facility. In some situations, the court may commit the juvenile to the Texas Youth Commission, the juvenile prison system in Texas or sign an order authorizing the juvenile to be tried as an adult. However, a juvenile who has been transferred to the adult court may never receive the death penalty.

Child Abuse Cases

The Civil Section represents the Department of Family and Protective Services in civil child abuse cases filed for the protection of children. These cases can involve emergency removals of children from the home to protect them from abuse or neglect. Temporary orders can be issued by the court granting temporary custody to the Department or a relative who will protect the child while the case is pending. These civil suits can ultimately result in the termination of parental rights. The court can also order parent(s) to do certain services to avoid the removal of children.

Involuntary Mental Commitments

The Civil Section presents cases before the Probate Court in matters where a person suffering a mental illness poses a danger either to self or others, or is in danger of deteriorating to the point of no longer being able to perform the daily functions of life and needs to be hospitalized. A person may not be hospitalized involuntarily for mental health services without an order from the court.

The procedure begins when a person with knowledge of the proposed patient (either a relative, neighbor, friend, or case worker) applies for a commitment for temporary mental health services. The application is usually accompanied by a request for an order for protective custody placing the proposed patient in a mental facility. A doctor examines the proposed patient and prepares a report for the judge. Within 72 hours of the filing of the application, the court has a probable cause hearing. The court uses the doctor’s report and testimony to decide if the proposed patient should continue to be held at the hospital pending a hearing for temporary mental health services. The hearing has to be held within two weeks of the filing of the application and no later than 30 days after the filing. At the hearing, the court must have the testimony of a medical expert as well as an additional written report by a second doctor. The court will decide if the proposed patient should be involuntarily committed for in-patient mental health services not to exceed 90 days. In some circumstances, the court can commit a patient for up to 12 months. Even if the 90 days or 12 months have not expired, the patient can be released from the hospital upon being sufficiently stabilized. If the patient does not need to be hospitalized but does need help, the court can order the patient to participate in out-patient treatment while remaining at home, again, either only for a time period not to exceed 90 days or 12 months, depending upon the circumstances.

Involuntary Retardation Commitments

The District Attorney’s Office can help families or agencies caring for mentally retarded individuals who can no longer live at home or independently by filing for an involuntary long-term placement at a state facility. The court has a hearing and considers documents and testimony before issuing an order.

Guardianship Cases

If indigent adults who have no resources and lack the capacity to make decisions and care for themselves need help and there are no family members available, the State of Texas can request that the court appoint the State as guardian. The court has a hearing and considers documents and testimony before issuing an order. If the appointment is granted, the court reviews the case periodically to ensure that proper care is being given to the person.