A restraining order is a court order intended to protect one from further harm by someone who has previously caused harm. Restraining orders keep abusers away from the person filing the restraining order and are intended to prevent continued harassing behavior. In Massachusetts restraining orders can also be used to keep the abuser away from the scene of violence, which may be the home or place of work. A restraining order is a civil order and will not give the abuser a criminal record. However, if there is a violation of the restraining order it is then considered a criminal offense.
How long does a restraining order last?
When a person first gets protection under the law with a restraining order, a temporary restraining order is issues to provide the same relief as the final restraining order, but is only intended to last until the final hearing or until another court order is entered. There is no ‘time limit’ on a temporary restraining order — it will last until it is dismissed by the court at request of the “victim” or until the final hearing is held and a final restraining order is not held.
A final restraining order will last unless and until the court dismisses it. If there is no request by the “victim” to dismiss the final restraining order, it will last indefinitely.
Criminal Harassment Orders
Harassment refers to a range of repeated behaviors that are subject to both criminal punishment and civil liability. The behavior of the perpetrator must cause the victim distress or reasonable fear for their safety and their family’s safety. Generally speaking, this harassing behavior must occur repeatedly, but in instances where the behavior is overtly threatening, a single occurrence can be considered criminal harassment.
What is the difference between a restraining order and a criminal harassment order?
The main difference between a restraining order and a criminal harassment order (or Harassment Prevention Order) concerns the class of people that can seek relief under each law.
With a criminal harassment order, anyone can seek relief by filing an application in court and proving a case of harassment. With a restraining order, on the other hand, only “family or household members” are able to seek relief. In other words, to file a restraining order the parties must have had a relationship in any of the following ways: by marriage, in a dating relationship, residing together in the same household, or relation at some point by blood or marriage.
The criminal harassment order greatly increases the pool of people that are able to seek relief from another person’s harassing behavior.
If you or someone you know has had a restraining order filed against you or them, or has been charged with violating a restraining order we can help protect your interests and rights, and help you understand the law as it pertains to restraining orders.
If you have been charged with any type of harassment, or with violating a restraining order or criminal harassment order in Massachusetts or Worcester County please call us to schedule a consultation and to represent your interests and rights in the court of law.