Requests for a “restraining order” which in Massachusetts is often called a “209A order” are exceeding common and among the very most frequently made requests in the courts of Massachusetts.
In Massachusetts, a 209A order is a civil court order intended to provide protection from physical harm caused by force or threat of harm from a family or household member or even someone in a casual dating relationship. While the 209A proceeding is civil in nature, violations of 209A orders are crimes punishable by fines and/or incarceration. So, if someone has a restraining order granted against them, they still might not have a criminal record, but they could possibly be on the road to getting a criminal record if they are found to violate this civil order.
These orders are used frequently in divorce, custody, or other domestic disputes. They are a very necessary form of protection for abused victims, but there are times when they are used for spite or vengeance knowing that they don’t cost anything and are relatively easy to obtain as usually no particular evidence or proof is needed and they can be granted just on the mere claim or say-so of the complaining person. There have been times when the person seeking the restraining order might, in reality, actually be the abuser and now, ironically, wants a further weapon to use against the real victim.
Restraining orders are routinely granted against:
- a spouse or former spouse
- a present or former household member
- a relative by blood or a present or former relative by marriage
- the other parent of a minor child of the Plaintiff
- a person with whom the Plaintiff has or had a dating relationship no matter how casual
They can be obtained from any Court in Massachusetts. An emergency 209A Order can be obtained through any police department after court hours, on weekends and holidays. One does not need an attorney to file for a 209A Order, the person requesting the order (also known as the Plaintiff) will receive help from court personnel and Victim Witness Advocates (employees of the District Attorney’s Office whose sole job is to assist alleged victims with court procedures and filing criminal charges). There is no charge for filing for the order. Criminal charges are not necessary to obtain a 209A order, but Victim Witness Advocates often encourage the filing of criminal charges as well.
What a restraining order can compel one to do
- The person requesting the order may request, among other things, that the judge order that the Defendant:
- Stop or refrain from abuse of Plaintiff or a child in Plaintiff’s custody
- Have no contact with the Plaintiff or a child in the Plaintiff’s custody
- Vacate or move out of the house or apartment where the Plaintiff resides, even if the lease or title is in the Defendant’s name
- Stay away from the Plaintiff’s place of employment
- Pay support to the Plaintiff or a child in Plaintiff’s custody, if there is an obligation to support
- Pay Plaintiff’s medical costs, lost wages, cost of changing locks, attorney’s fees, and other expenses resulting from the alleged abuse
- Attend a Batterer’s Intervention Program
A person who applies for a 209A restraining order can get a temporary one granted by going before a judge and the accused may not even be in attendance in court to give argument on why it should not be granted. However, if the judge grants the temporary order, then the accused must be notified and given a right to a hearing within 10 days to challenge it at a court hearing
Once the 209A order is granted, it can be violated for a variety of reasons such as indirect contact by giving a message through a third party such as a mutual friend, sending an email or a text message or forwarding a piece of mail. Even if the accuser were to invite the accused over, the accused could not accept as long as the court order is in place. If one runs into the person who requested restraining order protection by accident at a restaurant or on the street, it is advisable that the accused immediately turn away and leave.
Have you been served with a restraining order in Massachusetts? Contact our criminal defense law firm today for a free legal consult.