Restraining Orders & 209A Violations

Violating a Restraining Order in MA – What are the Consequences?

While restraining order violations are technically misdemeanors in Massachusetts, they are taken extremely seriously. Courts see restraining orders as a mechanism to prevent a more serious crime from taking place. They are often used in situations of domestic violence and disputes, mostly situations in which one person is fearful of another.

A restraining order effectively prevents a defendant from contacting the plaintiff in any way, shape, or form. It may in some cases grant temporary custody over children to the petitioning spouse, evict the defendant from a shared home, or confiscate the defendant’s firearms. Restraining orders often remain on the defendant’s permanent record. If you have had a restraining order brought against you, contact us to have one of our experienced Boston restraining order lawyers review the order and offer you counsel on how to best move forward.

The first step in restraining order litigation is a temporary restraining order, which usually lasts for up to 10 days. The defendant will then have an opportunity to testify in court before a permanent order is implemented. Violations of these can be punished even when the defendant does not yet know of them and may mark his or her permanent record.

Elements of Restraining Order Violation

All of the following circumstances must occur to properly convict someone of a restraining order violation:

  1. A court issued a proper restraining order under Massachusetts General Laws Section 209A
  2. Restraining order was in effect, and had not expired, when the violation occurred
  3. The defendant knew that the order was in effect
  4. The defendant contacted, abused, failed to vacate the home, or by failing to stay away from the victim the order applied to

Any contact with the individual the order pertains to constitutes a violation. Other events that do not involve any contact may also constitute restraining order violations, such as disturbing the plaintiff’s workplace or home when he or she is not there or contacting the person via technology or a third person. Note that accidental contact with the victim is not a violation. An incidental run in with the victim can be a valid defense to a restraining order violation. Obviously when dealing with restraining orders it is best to have a lawyer that has experience in dealing with the ins and outs of these orders. At Altman & Altman LLP our lawyers have been representing clients that have been dealing with restraining orders for over 50 years.

Consequences of Violating a Restraining Order

A violation of a restraining order is a criminal offense in Massachusetts. Upon breaking the terms of a restraining order, a judge may sentence the individual to a maximum of two and a half years in jail and impose a fine of up to $5,000. The individual will also likely be required to complete a batterer’s program, which is a program to intervene on domestic abusers.

Your actual punishment will depend on a variety of circumstances including why the order was originally issued, the allegations surrounding the violation, your criminal record, as well as an assessment of the threat you present to the victim. A judge may evaluate the extent to which you violated the order and your intent in doing so. Was your intent to intimidate the complainant? Did you break the order by only a few feet, or were you up close? These decisions are often highly discretionary, and the personal opinions of the judge may play a role in the outcome. For this reason, one of our experienced Boston restraining order violation attorneys can prevent an arbitrary decision and defend you to the best of their ability.

If you or a loved one have been charged with a restraining order violation, contact our offices at Altman & Altman LLP, 617.492.3000 or 800.481.6199 toll-free, or contact us online for a free consultation.

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