In Massachusetts, a 209A, also called a restraining order or an abuse protection order, is a civil action. This means if you have a 209A taken out against you, it will not appear on your CORI or criminal record.
However, a restraining order violation is a crime, and you can be tried in court for a felony or misdemeanor offense and if found guilty, sentenced to jail and/or probation along with substantial fines.
While it doesn’t take much to open a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), the complainant must demonstrate real and immediate risk of harm, abuse or threats by the defendant at the 10-day hearing before a 209A –Abuse Prevention Order, is issued.
If you’ve been noticed or know that a Temporary Restraining Order has been taken out against you, call a MA Restraining Order defense attorney right away. You have the right to defend against 209A Orders, and to be represented at the 10-day hearing.
Causes & Defenses: Restraining Order Violations
Unintentional Contact – You can be charged with a misdemeanor if you violate the “no contact” orders of the 209A. You can fight this violation if, for example, the contact was technical rather than intentional in nature. Maybe you went to the super market to purchase groceries and end up in the same check out line, once you become aware of this you need to leave the space and get beyond the length restrictions in your RO.
Insignificant Relationship – Abuse prevention laws can only be applied among persons who have or had a familial, domestic or substantive dating relationship. If you and the accuser only went out a few times, your defense attorney can argue that the court has no jurisdiction, as yours does not meet the relationship threshold.
No Notice – If you didn’t receive your copy of the 209A, your lawyer can argue that no violation occurred because you had no knowledge of any orders from the court.
No Order /Expired Order – If the 209A was not in effect at the time of your alleged violation, then the commonwealth should not have standing to bring charges against you. Many abuse prevention orders are for limited periods only, initially 10 days, then 6 months, 1 year or permanent.
The best strategy is to fight the complaint from the beginning at the TRO 10 Day hearing. Your attorney can help you offer compelling testimony and bring witnesses on your behalf to be heard. Questioning the plaintiff along with any other evidence to contest these claims can result in having the complaint vacated, thus nullifying any grounds for a 209A.
When it comes to restraining and abuse prevention orders, defendants are guilty until proven innocent. That might not seem so shocking at the civil level, but understand that once ordered, any alleged violation of a 209A becomes a criminal matter.
If convicted on a violation, you face up to 2.5 years in a House of Corrections and will have a misdemeanor on your permanent record.
Call my office today to go over the specifics of your civil restraining order or criminal 209A violation case: 978-452-1116.