Having a restraining order taken out against you can have serious criminal and civil consequences, and is not something to take lightly. We recommend you contact a lawyer if someone is seeking a restraining order against you or is claiming you have violated an existing restraining order.Defending Against Restraining Orders
If you receive notice that someone seeks or has obtained a restraining order against you, you likely have a very short window in which to respond to defend yourself. For both abuse prevention orders under Mass. G. L. c. 209A (where you have a family or romantic relationship with the plaintiff) and harassment prevention orders under Mass. G. L. c. 258E a judge can enter the order ex parte – meaning that you do not have to be present at the hearing where the judge decides to enter the order. If a judge enters an order against you in your absence, it goes into effect immediately and as soon as you receive it you must abide by it, even if you believe it should not have gone into effect or you want to challenge it. If an order is issued in your absence, a hearing will usually be scheduled for 10 days after the order issues where both you and the plaintiff can make your arguments for why the order should or should not be continued. At that hearing the judge can continue the order for up to one year. Our lawyers can represent you at the 10 day hearing, and any subsequent hearings regarding the restraining order, to attempt to prevent the judge from issuing the order against you.
People often think of restraining orders as “no contact” orders, meaning that all they require is that you not contact the plaintiff, but they can be much broader. In addition to requiring you not to contact the plaintiff, harassment prevention orders can also bar you from going near the plaintiff or his or her place of work, and can require you to pay money to the plaintiff to remedy the harassment. Abuse prevention orders can be even more far-reaching, granting custody of children to the plaintiff, requiring the defendant to move out of his or her home, and ordering that temporary spousal or child support or other money be paid to the plaintiff. Because a harassment or abuse prevention order can have such a significant impact on your life—potentially excluding you from your home, prohibiting contact between you and your children, and requiring you to pay money to the plaintiff— it is important to make the best case against the order at the first opportunity you have in order to prevent the order from ever going into effect, or to have the order reviewed and modified if it already in effect.
Because we have years of experience with these types of orders, and are up to date on the recent developments in the legal interpretation of these laws, we can help you make the case for why an order should not be issued in the first place, why it should be terminated or why it should not be renewed.Restraining Order Violations
Although abuse prevention orders and harassment prevention orders are civil orders, a violation of these orders can be a crime, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment of up to 2.5 years. The police are required to arrest anyone they witness violating a restraining order, or if they have probable cause to believe someone has violated a restraining order even if they do not personally witness it. If you are being accused of violating a restraining order you will want an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you, either at a clerk-magistrate’s hearing if a complaint is being sought against you, or in a criminal case if you are already charged with the crime. We will investigate whether you were properly notified of the order at the time the alleged violation occurred, we will look at what actions you allegedly took and whether they actually violated the specific terms of your order, and we will examine whether we can challenge the underlying order as improperly or unconstitutionally issued.
If you are the subject of a restraining order, or if you are being accused of violating a restraining order, please call our attorneys at (617) 742-6020.