Massachusetts Restraining Orders are civil orders with criminal penalties. Restraining orders have serious consequences. They can order you to stay away from someone, not to abuse someone, and even leave your own home. Also, every 209a order forbids the possession of firearms.
Attorney Patrick Donovan helps people fight their domestic violence restraining orders.
What is a Restraining Order?
A 209a abuse prevention order is a protective order issued by a judge. That is because they are found in MGL 209A. Restraining orders are civil orders with criminal penalties. Also, there are two types of restraining orders are either stay-away orders or no-abuse orders.
Who Can Get a 209a Order?
Any person who is in a “substantive relationship” (dating, family, or roommate) can apply for a restraining order in Massachusetts. Superior Court, Probate Court, and District Court in Massachusetts have the power to issue these orders.
Massachusetts Restraining Order Process
An ex parte hearing is the first step in the Massachusetts restraining order process. This ex-parte hearing is where one side can get a temporary 209a order. At this hearing, the person seeking the order (the plaintiff) must fill out an affidavit. This must say why they think they need the 209a order. Finally, if the judge believes the plaintiff can show a reasonable fear of harm the order issues.
Two Party Hearing
The two-party hearing is the second step in the Massachusetts restraining order process. The two-party hearing is held ten days after the ex parte hearing. The plaintiff goes first at the extension hearing. Usually, the plaintiff will tell the judge why the order is needed. If the plaintiff has an attorney, the attorney may question the plaintiff. After the plaintiff testifies the defendant has a right to ask questions. This is called cross-examination. The plaintiff can, if they want, call witnesses after the cross-examination. The defendant can then cross-examine the witnesses. The defendant may testify after the plaintiff presents all of their evidence. This is entirely the defendant’s decision. If the defendant chooses to testify the plaintiff has the right to cross-examination. Also, the defendant can offer any witness they like.
The last part of the two-party hearing is closing arguments. Both sides can make a closing argument. There, the plaintiff will argue in support of the order. Then, the defendant can argue why the plaintiff does not need a Massachusetts restraining order.
The judge after hearing all of the evidence and argument has to decide if the order should be issued. The judge must use the preponderance of evidence standard. Then the judge must decide if the plaintiff has shown a reasonable fear of physical harm. If the plaintiff does the restraining order issues. Then the judge cannot issue the order if the plaintiff does not show that there is a reasonable fear of harm. Finally, the judge may issue the order for up to one year.
After one year, there is another extension hearing. Again both sides can present an argument. There, the plaintiff must show there is a continued need for the restraining order. Then, the judge must determine if a reasonable person would still be in fear of the defendant. Finally, if the judge extends the order he can extend it for a certain period of time or make it permanent.
Restraining Order Consequences
Massachusetts restraining orders have many consequences. A restraining can either be a no-contact order or a no abuse order. A no-contact order means that defendant must stay away and have no contact with the plaintiff. A no-contact order forces the defendant to stay a certain distance away from the plaintiff. Also, a no-contact order may even force someone to leave their own house. A judge has the authority to order the person paying the mortgage or rent to leave. Also, a no-contact order forbids the defendant from calling, emailing, texting, or otherwise communicating with the plaintiff.
A no abuse restraining order does not include a stay-away order. A no abuse order allows the parties to be near each other. That means, this order forbids the defendant from abusing the plaintiff. Any abuse by the defendant will result in a criminal charge.
Any 209a order in Massachusetts requires gun owners not to possess any guns. Therefore, anyone who owns a gun must turn it in to the police, or to a licensed gun owner, while the order is active. Also, anyone who violates the order is subject to immediate arrest. They also face up to two and a half years in the house of Corrections.
Massachusetts Restraining Order Penalties
The penalty for violating a restraining order in Massachusetts is severe. Anyone convicted of violating a restraining order faces up to two years in jail. In addition, other penalties include mandatory completion of a certified batters program, probation, fines, and fees.
What you need to do if you have a Ma Restraining Order
Once a restraining order has been issued it must be followed. You must understand and follow all of the order’s terms. For example, if the order states that the person does not make any contact, the person must not make any contact. Also, violations of restraining orders can impact both divorce and child custody cases.
Call Massachusetts restraining order attorney Patrick Donovan. Attorney Donovan has fought many restraining orders in Massachusetts.