Restraining Orders/Harassment

In an effort to protect their citizens from abuse and harassment, Massachusetts provides relief to victims of such activity in two different forms: an abuse prevention order and a harassment prevention order. Both of these court issued injunctions require a party to do, or to refrain from doing certain acts. A party that refuses to comply with a court, whether a harassment prevention order or abuse prevention order to sanctions, including fines, probation and possible imprisonment. Abuse and harassment orders are most often used in instances of domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault and stalking. The use of protection orders is widely criticized due to their ineffectiveness and often times, misuse. Many people disagree on whether protection orders are effective in the prevention of further harassment. In fact, a 2002 analysis by Brian Spitzberg of 32 U.S. studies found that restraining orders are violated roughly 40% of the time and are followed by worse events almost 21% of the time. However, a study conducted in 2010 by the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law show that protection orders are directly associated with reduced risk of violence toward the victim, and can be an effective component of a threat-management strategy. To keep yourself and your family safe, or to defend yourself from an unwarranted protection order, please consult an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney.

Abuse Prevention Order

An abuse prevention order is a court order issued to protect an individual from the abuse by another order. This order is defined by M. G. L. c. 209A and is sometimes known as a restraining order or a 209A protective order. The legal definition of abuse, as defined by Massachusetts is the act of:

  1. Causing or attempting to cause physical harm,
  2. Placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm, or
  3. Causing another to engage involuntary in sexual relations by force, threat of force, or duress.

If you have been subjected to one of the abuses outlined above, you are eligible to obtain an abuse prevention order. An abuse prevention order may be obtained against a spouse, former spouse, relative through blood or marriage, current or former household member, or someone with whom you have had a significant dating relationship. An abuse prevention order remains in effect for one year and may be extended pending a hearing. An abuse prevention order may offer the following protection:

  • Relief from further abuse,
  • Relief from direct or indirect contact by the abuser,
  • Prevent the abuser from visiting ones home or workplace,
  • Temporary custody of children,
  • Prevent the abuser to have contact or interaction with those children,
  • Prevent the disclosure of ones address through impoundment,
  • Surrender of firearms by abuser,
  • Other forms of relief may be available based on your specific needs for protection.
Violation of an Abuse Prevention Order

A violation of an abuse prevention order is punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000, imprisonment in a house of correction for a maximum of 2.5 years, or both. In addition to these penalties, a person found in violation is subject to an addition court fee of $25, and may also be required to pay the plaintiff monetary damages for losses suffered due to harassment. Also, anyone in violation of this order must complete a Certified Batterer’s Intervention Program. Violation of an abuse prevention order is a criminal offense. In order for the prosecution to convict an individual of violating an abuse prevention order, they must be able to prove four things beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The Court issued an Abuse Prevention Order pursuant to Chapter 209A of Massachusetts General laws,
  2. The order was in effect on the date of the alleged violation,
  3. The defendant was aware of the terms of the order by either having received a copy of the order by learning of it some other way, and
  4. The defendant violated the terms of the order in a way prohibited by the order.
Harassment Prevention Order

A harassment prevention order is a court order issued to protect an individual from the repeated instances of harassment. The law came into effect in Massachusetts in February 2010, and is defined by Chapter 258E of the Massachusetts General Laws. The law defines harassment as the occurrence of one of the following instances:

  1. Three or more acts of willful and malicious conduct aimed at a specific person committed with the intent to cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property and that does in fact cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property, or
  2. A single act that by force, threat, or duress causes another to involuntarily engage in sexual relations, or
  3. A single act that constitutes one of 12 enumerated crimes involving sexual assault, stalking or harassment.

The District Court, Boston Municipal Court, Superior Court, or the Juvenile Courts of Massachusetts may issue an individual suffering from any of three instances above a harassment prevention order. The Probate and Family Court does not have jurisdiction to issue harassment prevention orders.

This act does not require the individual requesting the order to have any relationship with the person against whom they are seeking the order. A harassment prevention order merely requires the individual to show that he or she was victimized by three or more acts of harassment; this is a substantial difference between the abuse prevention order outlined above. A person suffering from this type of harassment may petition the court for an order that the defendant:

  • Refrain from abusing of harassing the plaintiff,
  • Refrain from contacting the plaintiff,
  • Remain away from the plaintiff’s house or workplace,
  • Pay monetary compensation for losses suffered as a direct result of the harassment.
Violation of a Harassment Prevention Order

A violation of a harassment prevention order is punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000, imprisonment in a house of correction for a maximum of 2.5 years, or both. In addition to these penalties, a person found in violation is subject to an addition court fee of $25, and may also be required to pay the plaintiff monetary damages for losses suffered due to harassment, such as loss of earnings, out-of-pocket losses for injuries to person or property, cost of replacement locks, medical expenses, cost to obtain an unlisted telephone numbers, and reasonable attorney’s fees.

Boston Area Abuse and Harassment Crimes Attorney

The safety of one’s self and family is extremely important. Often times it is a matter of life and death. If you believe you are being harassed or abused by someone, please do not hesitate to contact a lawyer familiar with the law to accompany you to court to seek an abuse or harassment prevention order to help protect you or a loved one. In some cases, the victim is actually the one served with an abuse or harassment prevention order. At The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy, we know that individuals will sometimes try to manipulate the courts, and we are able to bring their behavior to the attention of court officials and seek justice for our clients. Call Patrick J. Murphy, Esq. 24/7 to discuss the particular details of your case by dialing (617) 367-0450 or by completing the contact form on our website which is emailed directly to us.

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