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What do I need to know about 209A Restraining Orders?

Restraining orders are, at their most basic level, a court order that requires one individual to stay away from another. In Massachusetts, there are many different types of restraining orders. Two of the more common include the 209A Restraining Order and the 258E Harassment Prevention Order.

In an effort to help provide some clarity around this topic and how these court orders work, we will delve into a series of articles that dive into these two more common types of orders.

What is a 209A Restraining Order?

A 209A Restraining Order is a court order that prohibits one individual from contacting another. It is also known as a Protective Order or Abuse Prevention Order. It is the result of a civil, not criminal, case. This basically means one individual begins the process against another. It also means anyone who is the subject of a 209A does not automatically get sent to jail, probation a counseling program, or otherwise face criminal penalties. Those are the result of criminal charges.

Although the presence of an Abuse Prevention Order is not in itself a crime, the violation of the terms of the order is a crime. As such, it is important for anyone who is the subject of this type of order to understand its scope.

What happens if the person violates the Abuse Prevention Order?

Establishing a violation is not a simple, one step task. The person who claims there is a violation must meet a number of different factors. These generally include:

  • The presence of an order. The alleged victim would need to show the court evidence of an official order.
  • The order was in effect. Next, it is important to review the dates that the order was in effect. The attempt to establish a violation will fail if the order was not in effect at the time of the alleged violation.
  • A violation occurred. This will depend on the language of the order, but the alleged victim will attempt to prove to the court that the individual either abused, contacted, or failed to remain a certain distance from those named within the order thus causing a violation of the order. For the purposes of the order, abuse generally means causing or attempt to cause another physical harm or putting that individual in fear of physical harm.
  • The individual knew about the order. The alleged victim will also need to show that the individual was aware of the order. In some cases, the court will accept evidence the individual was sent a copy of the order.

The individual may counter that any alleged contact was accidental. The person who filed for the order may attempt to defeat this claim. Such efforts require the person to show the individual did not take reasonable steps to end the accidental contact.

How can those who are the subject of a restraining order protect their rights?

First it is important to understand your rights. A legal professional experienced in this area of the law can review the situation and provide guidance. Once you know your rights, you can begin to develop a plan to reduce the risk of any additional allegations of wrongdoing, better ensuring you can move forward with your life.

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