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What is the difference between a 209A and a 258E?

We are providing some background information on the various types of restraining orders available in Massachusetts, looking at the basics of each, how they compare to each other and what some common questions are when you are the subject of such an order. In this third part of our series on restraining orders in Massachusetts, we dive into the difference between the 209A Restraining Order and the 258E Harassment Prevention Order. The previous pieces, outlining the basics on a 209A and a 258E are available here and here respectively.

When it comes to comparing these types of restraining orders, there are three broad differences.

#1: The subject of the restraining order

Lawmakers enacted the 209A Restraining Order in 1978. At its time, it was relatively innovative because it highlighted a dramatic societal shift. During this time, abuse within the home was widely viewed as a private matter. Passage of this law signaled a recognition of domestic abuse as a crime as opposed to a family matter. As such, this type of restraining order generally applies only to family members or those who are otherwise in an intimate relationship.

The 258E Harassment Prevention Order does not have this requirement.

#2: Eligibility requirements

Although the 258E does not require a domestic relationship, the criteria are generally more difficult to meet compared to the 209A. To get approval for a 258E Harassment Prevention Order, the applicant must establish the accused committed three or more acts that were willful and malicious; aimed at the applicant, intended to cause fear, intimidation, abuse, or damage to property; and did in fact cause fear, intimidate, abuse, or damage to property.

The applicant could also qualify for a 258E if the accused committed one of the following more serious offenses: sexual relations through force, threat or duress, indecent assault and battery, rape, statutory rape, assault with intent to rape, enticement of a child, criminal stalking, criminal harassment, or drugging for sexual intercourse.

To receive a 209A the applicant must establish the accused has done one of the following: harmed or attempted to harm them, put them in fear of imminent serious physical harm, or caused the applicant to engage in sexual relationships as a result of force, threat, or duress.

#3: Application location

The venue, or location that the individual can apply for these protections, also differs between these two types of restraining orders. To get a 258E the applicant may apply at the Boston Municipal Court, District Court, Superior Court, or Juvenile Court near the applicant’s residence. The Probate and Family Court cannot issue a 258E but can issue a 209A.

Is there anything else I should know if I am the subject of a restraining order in Massachusetts?

Those who are the subject of a restraining order should keep in mind one important similarity: both of these legal tools can lead to criminal charges. Although the presence of the order itself does not lead to criminal charges, a violation can. As such, those who are the subject of a restraining order and violate its terms can face criminal penalties the extent of which vary depending on the details of the circumstances. It is important to understand the type and scope of the restraining order. This information is important so you can tailor a plan to the situation to avoid or begin to build a defense against any additional allegations of wrongdoing.


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