Massachusetts Harassment Prevention Orders statute is M.G.L. c 258e. Anyone subjected to harassment can get a protective order. Harassment prevention orders require someone to stay away and have no contact with someone else. Orders can last up to one year and become permanent after one year.
Harassment prevention orders are almost identical to 209a abuse prevention orders. Like an abuse prevention order, an HPO is a civil order with criminal penalties. Any violation of an HPO is a criminal violation punishable by jail time, probation, and fines. Harassment prevention orders are entirely different than criminal harassment.
Harassment Prevention Order Statute
The Harassment Prevention Order statute requires three or more acts of willful and malicious conduct directed at a specific person and intended to cause abuse, intimidation, fear, or damage to property. Also, it did in fact cause fear, intimidation, abuse, or damage to property.
Since Chapter 258e was enacted in 2010 Massachusetts Courts have narrowed the definition of harassment required for the order. Only speech not protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution is harassment. Courts have ruled that only “true threats” or “fighting words” are harassment.
Fighting words are personal insults that are so offensive that they are likely to provoke a violent reaction. Not every insult is a fighting word. The Supreme Court has said that “fighting words” are words that are so personally abusive that they are likely to provoke a violent reaction. Speech that is annoying or vulgar on its own does make them “fighting words.” The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has said in order to be fighting words the words must essentially be a face-to-face personal insult.
A true threat is when someone threatens another person or group with the intention of making them fear for their safety. A true threat must threaten physical harm or damage to property. Threats to do anything else are not true threats.
What qualifies for three incidents?
A 258e harassment prevention order requires three separate incidents of harassment. An act cannot be divided to satisfy the requirement. Also, incidents happening over a short period of time are considered one continuous act of harassment. Finally, there is no requirement that acts be separated by any specific amount of time.
Who can get an HPO in Mass?
Unlike a traditional 209a abuse prevention order anyone suffering harassment may seek a Harassment Prevention Order. A traditional restraining order, or 209A order, requires a family or household member, or dating relationship. This requirement does not exist for harassment orders. As long as there have been three or more incidents of harassment anyone may seek an order.
Can You Expunge a Harassment Prevention Order?
Judges may completely expunge a 258e harassment prevention order where there is “clear and convincing” evidence the order was obtained thru fraud.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court hears appeals of Massachusetts harassment orders.
Harassment Prevention Order Penalties
Any violation of a Harassment Prevention Order is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 or by imprisonment for not more than 2 1/2 years in a house of correction, or both. Courts may also order the payment of other fees and fines. The judge also may order that the defendant pay certain damages, including attorney’s fees, to the plaintiff.
Massachusetts Harassment Order Lawyer
Attorney Patrick T. Donovan is a Ma Criminal Attorney. Attorney Patrick Donovan aggressively pursues the best possible outcome for each and every one of our clients.
Call the Law Office of Patrick T. Donovan today for your free initial consultation at (617) 479- 1800.
The Law Office of Patrick T. Donovan represents clients in: Suffolk County including Boston, Dorchester, South Boston, East Boston, Mattapan, Roxbury, Chelsea, Abington, Avon, Braintree, Bridgewater, Brockton, Canton, Carver, Cohasset, Dedham, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, Easton, Foxborough, Freetown, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Hingham, Holbrook, Hull, Kingston, Lakeville, Mansfield.
Mattapoisett, Marion, Marshfield, Middleborough, Milton, Norton, Norwell, Norwood, Pembroke, Plymouth, Plympton, Quincy, Randolph, Raynham, Rochester, Rockland, Scituate, Sharon, Stoughton, Walpole, Wareham, West Bridgewater, Westwood, Weymouth, Whitman, Acton, Amesbury, Andover, Arlington, Ashland, Ayer, Bedford, Bellingham, Belmont, Beverly, Billerica, Bolton, Boxborough.
Boxford, Brookline, Carlisle, Burlington, Chelmsford, Chelsea, Concord, Dunstable, Danvers, Dover, Dracut, Essex, Everett, Framingham, Franklin, Georgetown, Gloucester, Groton, Groveland, Hamilton, Harvard, Holliston, Haverhill, Hopkington, Hudson, Ipswich, Lawrence, Lexington, Lincoln, Littleton, Lowell, Lynn, Lynnfield, Malden, Manchester, Marblehead, Marlborough, Maynard, Medfield, Medford, Medway, Melrose, Merrimac, Methuen.
Middleton, Milford, Millis, Nahant, Newbury, Natick, Needham, Newburyport, Newton, Norfolk, North Andover, North Reading, Northborough, Peabody, Pepperell, Plainville, Reading, Revere, Rockport, Rowley, Salem, Salisbury, Saugus, Sherborn, Shirley, Shrewsbury, Somerville, Southborough, Stoneham, Stow, Sudbury, Wakefield, Waltham, Watertown, Wayland, Wellesley, Wenham, West Newbury, Westborough, Westford, Weston, Wilmington, Winchester.
Winthrop, Woburn, Wrentham, Bourne, Sandwich, Falmouth, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, Brewster, Harwich, Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Boston, Dorchester, South Boston, East Boston, Roxbury, West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, North End of Boston, South End of Boston, Chinatown, Chestnut Hill, Roslindale, Hyde Park, Mattapan, Mission Hill, Beacon Hill, Charlestown, Allston, Brighton.