November 8, 2023
Domestic violence and harassment are an unfortunate reality in Massachusetts, and they can have a profound impact on a person's life. For victims of abuse, it is essential to explore the legal options available to them to protect themselves and their loved ones.
In Massachusetts, the two most common legal remedies for victims of abuse or harassment are an Abuse Prevention Order under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 209A and a Harassment Prevention Order under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 258E. These statutes can help provide immediate protection and relief to victims and can also serve as an important tool for preventing future incidents of violence or harassment. Both orders are intended to protect individuals from abuse or harassment, but there are some key differences between the two.
A 209A restraining order is a civil order that is issued by a court to protect someone from physical harm, threats, or intimidation by a family or household member. In order to obtain a Restraining Order under 209A, the victim must prove that he or she has "reasonable apprehension of immediate physical harm." Typically, the victim is required to complete and file a Complaint for Protection from Abuse, which includes a sworn affidavit detailing the abuse and the reasons why the victim fears imminent physical harm. The court will then review the complaint and may issue a temporary restraining order ex parte if it finds that the victim has met their burden. A hearing will be scheduled within 10 days of the temporary restraining order being issued to allow the Defendant to appear. At the hearing, the victim must present evidence and testimony to support the allegations of abuse and fear of harm. If the court finds that the victim has met the legal standard for a restraining order, restraining order will be extended.
A 209A order can provide key protections to victims, including:
- Requiring the abuser to immediately stop abusing or threatening the victim, to stay away from them, their home, their workplace, and other specified locations.
- Requiring the abuser to refrain from contacting the victim in any way, including in person, by phone, by mail, or through electronic communication.
- Require the abuser to surrender any firearms and/or licenses to carry firearms that they possess.
- Grant the victim exclusive use and possession of the home that they share with the abuser, regardless of who owns or rents the property.
- Allow the victim to request that the police accompany them to their home to ensure their safety while they collect personal belongings.
- Grant the victim temporary custody of any minor children they have with the abuser.
- Ordering the abuser to attend counseling or other treatment programs.
A 258E Harassment Prevention Order is a civil order that is issued by a court to protect someone from harassment, stalking, or abuse by someone who is not a family or household member. This type of order can be obtained against neighbors, coworkers, or other individuals who are not covered by a 209A restraining order. In order to obtain a 258E harassment prevention order the victim must show that the Defendant has committed "three or more acts of willful and malicious conduct aimed at them.” A Harassment Prevention Order can also be obtained if the Defendant forced the victim to have sex or threatened them into having sex at least once, or if the Defendant committed the following crimes against the victim: Indecent assault and battery, Rape, Statutory rape, Assault with intent to rape, Enticement of a child, Criminal stalking, Criminal harassment, Drugging for sexual intercourse.
To obtain a 258E harassment prevention order, the victim must go to the court that has jurisdiction over the case and request a 258E harassment prevention order. They will then complete and file a Complaint for Harassment Prevention Order, which includes a sworn affidavit detailing the basis for the order. The court will then review the complaint and may issue an ex parte temporary harassment prevention order if it finds that the victim has demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits. A hearing will be scheduled within 10 days of the temporary harassment prevention order being issued. At the hearing, the plaintiff must present evidence and testimony to support the allegations of harassment. If the court finds that the plaintiff has met the legal standard for a harassment prevention order, the order will be extended.
A 258E Harassment Prevention Order can provide key protections to victims, including:
- Prohibiting the abuser from abusing, harassing, contacting, or coming near the victim.
- Requiring the abuser to move out of the shared home or provide the victim with temporary possession of the home.
- Requiring the abuser to surrender any firearms they possess.
- Other orders can include other restrictions deemed necessary for the safety of the victim, such as requiring the abuser to attend counseling or refrain from certain activities.
It is important to note that the specific steps and requirements for obtaining a 209A restraining order or a 258E harassment prevention order may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the case. Any victim of abuse should always contact police or local authorities for any emergency needs.
If you are considering seeking one of these orders, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney who can advise you on the best course of action and assist you with the legal process.