Temporary restraining orders are protective orders that usually include a stay away provision. Terms of the order usually require that defendant must stay a certain distance away from the plaintiff. All restraining orders are court orders. Typically they are meant to protect victims of domestic violence.
So, what happens if the parties cross paths? Is that a violation of a Massachusetts restraining order? Did the abuser violate the order?
What is Accidental Contact?
Accidental contact is not a violation of a Massachusetts restraining order. Massachusetts law allows for accidental contact. Mistakes and accidents are not vioaltions of the law. An accident happens when something unexpected happens without any planning or design. In cases of accidental contact, as long as the defendant did not know or have a reason to know they would be in contact is not a violation of the domestic violence restraining order.
So what happens if a police officers still arrests someone who claims the violation of the restraining order was by accident? In cases where the defense of accidental contact is raised the burden is on the prosecution to dispove it.
The prosecutor can disprove the defense of accidental contact in two ways. The first way is to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the encounter was not accidental. That happens when the prosecutor can prove that the contact was intentional and planned. Or when the restrained person knows or has reason to know the other person will be someplace. There is requirement the person intends to violated the order. As long as they know or have reason to believe someone will be somewhere is enough for a conviction and possibly jail time.
Even if the contact is accidental the prosecutor can still get a conviction if they can prove the defendant failed to take reasonable steps to end the encounter. It does not matter who was there first or why they are there. It is the defendant who is required to end the encounter.
Simply running into a person at a store would not be a violation of a Massachusetts restraining. However if the defendant thought the victim might be there is a violation of the order. Or if the defendant did not take steps to end the encounter it would be violation.