There are two types of restraining orders in Massachusetts:
- An abuse prevention order is available to individuals who are or have been married, are in a serious dating relationship, parents of a child, family members related by blood or marriage, or are living together. An individual can get an abuse prevention order if s/he demonstrates that the accused has harmed or attempted to do physical harm, caused fear of imminent physical harm, or forced him/her to have sex by physical force or threats of harm;
- A harassment prevention order is available to individuals who do not have the necessary relationship required for an abuse prevention order and are requesting protection from someone who has committed 3 or more acts that were cruel and done intentionally to cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property and did in fact cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property. Alternatively, a harassment prevention order is available if the person requesting protection alleges that s/he was the victim of sexual assault, stalking, or criminal harassment.
It is a very simple procedure for one to go to court and ask a judge to issue a restraining order. Ordinarily, a 10-day restraining order is issued by the court, which typically forbids the defendant from having any contact with the alleged victim. The defendant will be notified of the temporary order and given a hearing date within two weeks (10 business days) to determine if the restraining order should be extended for a full year.
A restraining order is a legally binding court order that is designed to prevent contact and/or abusive behavior between two parties. If one or more terms of the restraining order are violated, a criminal offense has been committed. If you have been served notice of a hearing for the issuance of restraining order, a restraining order lawyer can advocate for you in order to prevent the order from being issued. If you are facing criminal charges based on the accusation that you have violated a restraining order, you need a lawyer to fight the criminal charges.
The Importance of Fighting the Issuance of a Restraining Order
A restraining order can do more than just dictate the distance that you must maintain with another person; the order can also limit phone, internet, and mail contact, and prevent you from traveling to certain locations (such as the home or workplace of the person who obtained the order). Even if you do not want to have any contact with the person who is requesting the order and have no concerns about your ability to abide by the conditions, it is still important to fight against the issuance of the order for two reasons:
- While restraining orders are civil orders and not criminal, once a restraining order is issued there is a permanent record of you having been accused of some form of domestic abuse and a judge finding evidence that the person requesting order is in reasonable fear for his/her safety. The issuance of such an order will be brought up if you are ever brought into court on criminal charges of a similar nature;
- Restraining orders are an important tool for protecting victims of domestic violence from their abusers, but are also ripe for abuse. When a restraining order is in place, all it takes is a claim by the person who took out the order that you violated a condition of the order to have you arrested and charged. It is not unusual for judges to set bail for people charged with violating a restraining order (especially if you have been accused of this before) because of concern that the accused cannot be trusted to follow a court order (such as returning to court on a specified date). This type of restraining order abuse by the people who are supposed to need protection is particularly prevalent when there are ongoing divorce, custody proceeding, and ongoing disputes between neighbors.
A judge in the Somerville District Court refused to issue a Harassment Prevention Order against my client despite that lengthy and dramatic testimony of the Plaintiff. His alleged behavior did not meet the legal definition of harassment.
Penalties for a Restraining Order Violation
Violating a restraining order (either an abuse prevention order or harassment prevention order) is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 or jail time of up to two and a half years or both.
If a Restraining Order Has Been Issued Against You
The most common misassumption that my clients who have been charged with restraining order violations have is that they can resume contact with the person who got the order if s/he agrees to it. This is simply not true. Even if the person who got an order preventing you from having contact tells you that you are forgiven and invites you to his/her house, it is illegal for you to accept the invitation until the order has been vacated by the court. If the person wants to resume contact with you, s/he must go to court and request that the order be vacated before the two of you can see each other again. The court will not treat you any differently if you are accused of a restraining order violation when the person who requested the protection initiates the contact. As far as the prosecutors, police, and judges are concerned, you have violated a court order and must be punished for this transgression
What a Restraining Order Lawyer Can Do for You
Having an experienced restraining order lawyer on your side can make all the difference. I have represented people just like you at restraining order hearings and have litigated countless cases of restraining order violations. If you or your loved one has been served with notice of a restraining order hearing, or are facing a charge of a restraining order violation, I want to help. To schedule a case consultation, please contact my office. With offices conveniently located in Belmont, MA and Lowell, MA, I represent clients in courts throughout the Greater Boston Area, north of Boston, and Metrowest Boston.