Restraining Orders & Harassment Prevention Orders

Restraining Orders

The Boston criminal defense lawyers at Bellotti Law Group, P.C. understand the ramifications of restraining orders or harassment prevention orders placed against you. Our criminal defense attorneys know the rights and responsibilities both the recipient and the alleged abuser face and also realize that not all restraining orders are initiated for valid reasons. Unfortunately, some restraining orders are motivated by unrelated domestic disputes and personal issues. We have decades of experience defending the rights of those with illegitimate restraining orders placed against them.

If someone is initiating restraining order proceedings against you or are being charged with violating a restraining order, it is imperative to call the experienced lawyers at Bellotti Law Group, P.C. at 617-225-2100 for a free consultation. You should not face the legal system alone. Instead, trust our decades of experience in representing you at the restraining order hearing and beyond to protect your rights. Our attorneys will work with you and the court to defend your rights and restore your rightful freedoms and good name. We have offices in Boston, Cambridge and Quincy and serve all of Massachusetts.

Time Is Of The Essence

Once a restraining order issues, even though it is a civil matter, your CORI (criminal) record will show its existence. As discussed in our "sealing CORI records" page, your criminal record is accessible by anyone, including potential employers, college officials, landlords, and loan officers. Further, once a valid restraining order is issued, the recipient will have tremendous power over you, including the ability to report a violation (including merely seeing or speaking with you), which subjects you to immediate arrest and criminal prosecution. Don't face the legal system alone. Choosing to represent yourself in filing or defending against a restraining order is very risky and can place you at a distinct disadvantage. The criminal defense lawyers at Bellotti Law Group, P.C. have handled hundreds of restraining orders over the years and will ensure your rights are protected.

Obtaining A Restraining Order

Most restraining orders in Massachusetts are governed by M.G.L. c. 209A. Pursuant to this law, a "family or household member" can report to the appropriate district court to obtain a restraining order to protect him/her against the actions of an alleged abuser. If the alleged victim is neither a family member nor household member, the alleged victim must apply to the Superior Court for injunctive orders. As seen at the bottom of this article, non-family members have the ability to obtain "harassment prevention orders" pursuant to Ch. 258E, discussed in more detail below.

Effect Of A 209A Restraining Order

A restraining order is a civil proceeding, signed by a judge, which grants protection for the recipient against an alleged abuser. A restraining order proceeding is still a civil matter, between the alleged victim and abuser, regardless of any other criminal prosecutions against the alleged abuser. However, violating a legitimate restraining order is considered a criminal offense. Restraining orders are issued to prevent a plethora of actions, which may or may not include: annoying, harassing, following, having contact with, calling, writing, or coming within a certain number of feet of a person's work, school, or home. Restraining orders can even affect child custody, living arrangements, child support, and ownership of weapons.

Violating A Valid Restraining Order Is A Criminal Offense

After a restraining order is filed, issued, and served on the alleged abuser (defendant), the terms of the order must not be violated, regardless of whether the restraining order is temporary or permanent. Otherwise, criminal prosecution may result, subjecting the defendant to arrest, incarceration, and other criminal penalties. A restraining order violation can result in jail time of up to 2 1/2 years and a $5,000 fine.

Ex Parte Temporary Restraining Order Hearings

Most applicants for restraining orders appear in court alone, or "ex-parte," to testify before a judge as to why a restraining order should be issued. It is important to note that the defendant does not need to be put on notice of this hearing. The plaintiff will file an affidavit at the hearing outlining the reasons for the restraining order request. The court will then decide if the plaintiff has shown, by a "preponderance of the evidence" (at least 51% likely), that a substantial likelihood of imminent danger of abuse exists. If so, a temporary restraining order will be issued.

The defendant, even if aware of the temporary restraining order hearing, cannot challenge the plaintiff at this time. At the hearing for a permanent restraining order, usually 10 days after the issuance of a temporary order (when the defendant is served with a copy of the temporary order), the defendant can finally respond to the allegations.

Hearing For A Permanent Restraining Order

After notice is given to the defendant of the temporary order, a permanent order hearing is held to determine if the restraining order will be extended for one year. This hearing is where the defendant can respond to the allegations in front of the court. The defendant can offer testimony, cross-examine the plaintiff, and/or call supporting witnesses. If the plaintiff does not appear, the temporary order will expire that day. At this hearing, it is very helpful to have an experienced and savvy attorney from Bellotti Law Group, P.C. speak on your behalf and examine the plaintiff's affidavit. Our defense lawyers can also cross-examine the plaintiff to learn of facts that may prove imperative at a later trial or another criminal matter against you.

Appeals Of 209A Restraining Orders

Once a restraining order issues against you, there is only one avenue of appeal, which is petitioning the a single justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) for relief under M.G.L. c. 211, section 3.

Harassment Preventions Orders Under Chapter 258E Are Not The Same As Restraining Orders Under Chapter 209A

Massachusetts General Law Chapter 258E offers protection against "harassment," regardless of any family relationship. Harassment is defined as:

"(i) 3 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 (ii) an act that: (A) by force, threat or duress causes another to involuntarily engage in sexual relations;" Again, additionally, "one can now apply to the court for a harassment prevention, regardless of the presence of any family relationship."

The criminal defense lawyers at Bellotti Law Group, P.C. have helped countless clients file and defend restraining orders and harassment prevent orders in courts throughout Massachusetts. We have offices in Boston, Cambridge, and Quincy. Call us today for a free consultation at 617-225-2100. You can also use our secure contact form.

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