What is the Difference Between an Abuse Prevention Order and a Harassment Prevention Order?

Criminal Attorneys

An abuse prevention order (209A order) and a harassment prevention order (258E order) are the two forms of restraining orders available in Massachusetts. The lawyers at Bellotti Law Group, P.C. can assist you in seeking a restraining order or a harassment prevention order. Additionally, there are many cases where the victim is the one who has been served a restraining order, due to petty domestic disputes or malicious intent. At Bellotti Law Group, P.C., we can help you seek justice and keep yourself and your loved ones safe. We have successful experience in both filing and defending against restraining orders. Call us at 617-255-2100 for a free consultation!

Restraining Orders: What They are and How They Work

There are different types of restraining orders in Massachusetts. If you are involved in a domestic violence conflict, you may face one or more types. Your spouse or another family member can seek protection under the law from the courts in the following ways:

Abuse Prevention Order (209A Order

The petitioner is protected against physical or sexual abuse by a relative or household member under this sort of order. The defendant is refrained from contacting, abusing, or living with the petitioner. This shields the petitioner from damage or the fear of harm induced by force. A 209A Order can also grant temporary custody of a minor child to the petitioner. According to Massachusetts law, abuse is referred to the act of:

  1. Causing or trying to inflict bodily damage to another
  2. Putting another in fear of impending significant bodily harm
  3. Forcing another to participate in involuntary sexual intercourse via force, the threat of force, or duress

Man Holding Woman's ShoulderIf you have been the victim of one of the abuses listed above, you may be eligible for an abuse prevention order. An abuse prevention order can be sought against a husband, ex-spouse, present or former household member, or someone with whom you had a substantial romantic connection. An abuse prevention order is valid for one year and may be extended at a later date pending a hearing. The following protections may be provided by an abuse prevention order:

  • Protection against future abuse
  • Protection against the abuser's direct or indirect touch
  • Stop the abuser from visiting your house or place of business
  • Children's temporary custody
  • Prevent the abuser from coming into touch with the children
  • Preventing the revelation of one's address
  • The abuser's surrender of guns

Additionally, other types of protection may be available depending on your individual needs.

Violation of an Abuse Prevention Order

Money Under Law GavelIf you violate an abuse prevention order, you may be fined up to $5,000, or serve a maximum sentence of 2.5 years in a correctional facility. You may be fined and forced to serve time in a correctional facility at the same time. In addition to these penalties, anybody found in breach of the order is liable to a $25 court fee. They may also be ordered to pay the plaintiff monetary damages for losses incurred as a result of the harassment. Anyone who violates this order is also required to undergo a Certified Batterer's Intervention Program. It is a crime to violate an abuse prevention order. In order to convict someone of violating an abuse prevention order, the prosecution must be able to establish four things beyond a reasonable doubt:

First, that a valid restraining order was issued against the defendant by a court. Second, that the defendant was aware of the terms of the order by either receiving a copy of the order or learning the terms another way. Third, that the defendant violated the restraining order. Finally, the prosecution must establish that the order was in effect at the time of the violation. 

Harassment Prevention Order (258E)

This type of restraining order is designed to prevent you from being harassed. You are entitled to obtain this order if you possess proof that someone committed three or more intentional and malicious acts that caused fear, intimidation, property damage, or abuse. 

A harassment prevention order is a court order that protects a person from being harassed on a regular basis. Harassment is defined by the law as the occurrence of one of the following events:

  • Three or more acts of deliberate behavior directed against a specific person, with the intent to create fear, intimidation, abuse, or property damage, and which produced fear, intimidation, abuse, or property damage
  • A single act that forces someone to participate in sexual intercourse unwillingly due to force, threat, or duress
  • One of the 12 enumerated offenses involving sexual assault, stalking, or harassment was committed in a single act.

Man chasing a WomanIf you have been subjected to one of the aforementioned scenarios, a harassment prevention order may be issued by the District Court, Boston Municipal Court, Superior Court, or Massachusetts Juvenile Courts. The Probate and Family Court lacks the authority to impose harassment prevention orders.

A harassment prevention order just needs the individual to prove that he or she has been the victim of three or more acts of harassment, as opposed to the abuse prevention order described above. A victim of this form of harassment can ask the court for an injunction requiring the perpetrator to:

  • Avoid harassing or abusing the plaintiff
  • Stop all contact with the plaintiff
  • Keep a safe distance from the plaintiff's home or workplace
  • Compensation for financial damages incurred as a direct result of the harassment

Contact a Restraining Order Attorney

A restraining order hearing can be an important element of your defense. It gives you a vital opportunity to question your accuser and assess their credibility. If you've been issued with a restraining order, you'll need the help of a lawyer from the Bellotti Law Group P.C. Call 617-255-2100 for a free consultation.

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