Harassment Prevention Orders in Massachusetts
Who may be eligible for a 258E order?A 258E is not a 209A restraining order, which are designed to prevent a person from abusing a member of their family or household, including those in a dating or intimate relationship. There are many differences between a 258E order and a 209A order, and an attorney's advice may be needed to determine which course to pursue. Generally, a person may become eligible for a 258E order if 1) they suffer three or more acts of wilful and malicious conduct (with intent to cause and actual fear, intimidation or property damage), 2) they suffer from one act whereby force, threats or duress was used to cause the perosn to involutarily engage in sexual realtions, or 3) they suffer from one act that violates any of the criminal statutes enumerated in Mass General Law 258E ? 1.
At which court can I apply for a 258E Harassment Prevention Order?A plaintiff can file a complaint requesting to apply for a Harassment Order at one of the following courts which has venue over the the plaintiff's residence: Superior Court, District Court, Boston Municipal Court. If the defendant is under the age of 17, the plaintiff must apply at the Juvenile Court which has venue over the plaintiff's residence.
Can I get a Harassment Order without having the defendant present?Upon the filing of the complaint, the court may issue a Temporary Order without the defendant being present if the plaintiff demonstrates a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of harassment. If a Temporary Order is issued, the defedant shall be given an opportunity to be heard regarding the order within ten court business days.
What if I want to apply for an order when the courts are closed?If the courts are closed or a plaintiff cannot get to the courthouse because of severe hardship due to their physical condition, the court may issue a Temporary Order if the plaintiff can demonstrate there is a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of harassment. This is done through an appropriate law enforcement agency on an emergency basis. If the justice issues a temporary order, the plaintiff must appear in court on the next business day. If the plaintiff cannot appear in court without severe hardship due to a physical condition, a representative may appear on his or her behalf to complete the appropriate complaint and affidavit explaining why the plaintiff could not personally appear.
What are the types of things a court can order a defendant to do pursuant to a Harassment Order?See M.G.L. Ch. 258E ?3(a)(i)-(iv). Under the current law the court may order the defenant to:
1. "refrain from abusing or harassing the plaintiff"
2. "refrain from contacting the plaintiff"
3. "remain away from the plaintiff's household or workplace"
4. "pay the plaintiff monetary compensation for the losses suffered as a direct result of the harassment; provided, however, that compensatory damages shall include, but shall not be limited to, loss of earnings, out-of-pocket losses for injuries sustained or property damaged, cost of replacement of locks, medical expenses, cost for obtaining an unlisted phone number and reasonable attorney's fees."
What happens if the defendant violates an active Harassment Order?A defendant who is found to have violated the order can be arrested. It is a criminal offense to violate an active 258E Harassment Prevention Order.
See M.G.L. Ch. 258E ?9. A violation of the order is "punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by imprisonment for not more than 21/2 years in a house of correction, or both. In addition to, but not in lieu of, the foregoing penalties and any other sentence, fee or assessment, including the victim witness assessment in section 8 of chapter 258B, the court shall order persons convicted of a violation of such an order to pay a fine of $25 that shall be transmitted to the treasurer for deposit into the General Fund. For any violation of such order, the court may order the defendant to complete an appropriate treatment program based on the offense."