Massachusetts has two significant abuse laws: Abuse Prevention (G.L. 209A) and Harassment Prevention (G.L. 258E). Both of these laws are designed to protect victims of abuse, but only the former requires you to have a specific close relationship with the alleged victim. When you have a specific close relationship, such as a spousal relationship or a dating relationship with someone who claims that you abused them, you can be charged with a domestic violence crime. However, you can also be charged with abuse-related offenses with regard to someone with whom you do not have an intimate relationship. At the Law Office of Patrick Murphy, our experienced Boston criminal defense attorney can look at all of the facts associated with an abuse-related offense and determine what a strong defense strategy would be.Abuse-Related Offenses May Lead to Significant Penalties
Abuse-related offenses are common in Massachusetts. Sometimes the abuse itself is at issue, while in other cases, someone is alleged to have violated a restraining order, such as an abuse prevention order or a harassment prevention order. Sometimes these orders are violated unwittingly. People who claim that they are victims are often assisted by advocates and coached to give a victim impact statement to the court. These can result in harsh sentences against defendants, making it especially important that a defendant consult their own attorney.
Abuse-related offenses include annoying and accosting someone of the opposite sex, criminal harassment, making harassing or obscene telephone calls, stalking, civil rights violations, threats to commit a crime, violations of an abuse prevention order, and violations of a harassment prevention order. Each of these offenses requires the prosecution to prove the elements of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
For example, annoying someone of the opposite sex with offensive and disorderly actions or language can be punished under section 53 of Chapter 272 of the Massachusetts General Laws. The prosecution will need to establish that the defendant knowingly engaged in disorderly words or acts, and a reasonable person would find the acts offensive. The defendant also must have intended to direct the words or acts toward the alleged victim, the alleged victim must have been aware of the words or acts, and the alleged victim must have been of the opposite sex to the defendant. Acts or words are considered disorderly when they involve violence, fighting, threats, or an invasion of privacy. If convicted, you face the possibility of imprisonment in a house of correction or jail for up to six months, a fine of up to $200, or both.
Another abuse-related offense is harassing or obscene phone calls, which are prohibited under M.G.L. ch. 269 s. 14A. This law covers someone who calls or contacts another person through an electronic communication or causes that person to be called or contacted over and over again for the purpose of molesting, annoying, or harassing that person or their family. A defendant can be charged with making harassing calls or communications, or a defendant can be charged with making repeated, obscene calls or communications. It does not matter whether there is actually a conversation for the first type of harassing call. For the second type of harassing call, the prosecution must show that the language was obscene and that the defendant knew the general nature of what they were saying. If convicted, you face the possibility of up to three months in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.
Stalking is another serious abuse-related offense that carries stiff penalties. To establish stalking, the prosecution needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant was knowingly involved in a series of actions involving at least three incidents directed at an alleged victim over a particular time period;
- The series of actions would cause someone to feel substantial emotional distress;
- The actions actually did cause serious alarm or annoyance to the alleged victim;
- The defendant acted willfully and maliciously; and
- The defendant made the threat with the intent of making the alleged victim immediately fearful of bodily injury or death.
The potential penalties are imprisonment for up to five years in the state prison, imprisonment in a house of correction for up to two and a half years, a fine of up to $1,000, or a combination.Protect Your Rights by Hiring a Boston Lawyer
If you are charged with an abuse-related offense in Massachusetts, you should seek assistance from an experienced Boston attorney. These charges are prosecuted aggressively, and the outcome of the charge may also affect future charges. We can investigate the facts of your case and develop a strong strategy to defend you. Call the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy at (617) 367-0450 or contact us via our online form if you need a stalking lawyer or representation in fighting similar types of charges. Patrick Murphy also represents people in Cambridge, Framingham, Lynn, Martha's Vineyard, Medford, Newton, Somerville, Taunton, and other areas of Middlesex, Suffolk, Essex, Barnstable, Hampden, Hampshire, Bristol, and Dukes Counties.