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The 258E Harassment Prevention Order

The Massachusetts court system most often approves two types of restraining orders: the 209A and the 258E Harassment Prevention Order. This article is the second part in a series that delves into the different types of restraining orders used in Massachusetts. The first part, available here, began with a discussion of the 209A Restraining Order.

This piece will focus on the 258E.

What is a 258E Harassment Prevention Order?

This court order allows an individual to request court protection to keep the subject of the request from abusing or harassing the individual who requests protection.

Under this order, the state defines harassment as a willful and malicious act. The law further defines “willful and malicious” as acts that are cruel, hostile, or done for revenge. In order to qualify for this type of restraining order the individual filing the request must also establish:

  • Target. That they were the target of the willful and malicious act.
  • Intent. That the act was meant to cause fear, intimidation, abuse, or property damage.
  • Result. That the act actually caused fear, intimidation, abuse, or property damage.

The courts will also approve a request for a 258E Harassment Prevention Order if the subject of the request committed one of the following crimes: rape, assault with intent to rape, indecent assault and battery, criminal stalking, criminal harassment, drugging for sexual intercourse, enticement of a child, or forced the individual to have sex or threatened sex.

What does this mean for the person who is the subject of the order?

It will depend on the language of the order. The order may state that the subject is not allowed to contact the individual. This can include a requirement that the subject stay a certain distance away from the individual, refrain from calling, texting, social media contact or even having friends ask about the individual.

The order can also state that the subject must pay for certain expenses, such as medical bills or lost wages that allegedly resulted from incidents of previous harassment.

Will I know that someone requested a 258E order?

Not always. There are instances when an individual can request the order without notifying the subject. This type of order is referred to as an ex parte order and is used by the court if the individual can show that there is a substantial likelihood of immediate danger or harassment. In these instances, the subject is generally made aware of the existence of the order when police give the subject a copy of the order, terms, and date of the hearing. At the hearing, the subject of the order has an opportunity to challenge the order.

The court generally schedules the hearing within 10 days of the issuance of the order.

How long do these orders last?

It depends on a number of factors, but they do not last forever. The first portion of the order is generally only good until the hearing, so about ten business days. The judge will then hear both sides and place an end date on the order, but the individual who requested the order could file for a renewal. If not, the order should automatically expire on the end date.

What if I violate the harassment prevention order?

A 258E Harassment Prevention Order is a civil order, not criminal. However, similar to the 209A Restraining Order, violation of the order is a criminal offense. The penalties associated with the violation depend on the circumstances.

What should I do if I find out I am the subject of a 258E Harassment Prevention Order?

It is important to take the time to understand your rights. Navigating this niche area of criminal law is not an easy task, but you do not have to go through it alone. An attorney experienced in these forms of protection orders can review the court order and help you develop a plan that better ensures your rights are protected and reduces the impact of the process on your personal and professional life.

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