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What are the penalties for violating a restraining order?

On Behalf of | Jun 18, 2024 | Violent Crimes |

A restraining order is a court order that tells one person to stay away from another person to keep them safe from harassment, abuse, or threats. This order can be used to protect alleged victims of domestic violence, stalking or bullying.

But what happens if the perpetrator violates the court’s order to stay away?

What constitutes a violation of a restraining order?

The goal of a restraining order is to provide safety and peace of mind to the person seeking protection. A restraining order can include no-contact instructions and prohibitions against certain behaviors. Violations may include:

  • Direct contact: This includes any form of communication, including in-person, phone calls, texts, emails or social media messages.
  • Physical closeness: Being within a specified distance of the protected person’s home, workplace or other selected locations.
  • Third-party contact: Using another person to relay messages or gather information about the protected individual.
  • Threat to property: Engaging in actions that threaten or cause harm to the protected person or their property may also be a violation.

Restraining orders, or protective orders in Massachusetts, are valid for a maximum of one year and are open to an extension by the court.

Can a person face jail time for a violation?

Violating a restraining order in Massachusetts can lead to severe penalties. The legal system takes these breaches seriously to ensure the safety and well-being of protected individuals. The consequences can include:

  • Arrest and detention: Immediate arrest by law enforcement, followed by detention until a court hearing.
  • Criminal charges: Filing of criminal charges, typically resulting in a misdemeanor offense, but can escalate to a felony under certain circumstances.
  • Significant fines: A violator may pay a fine, depending on the severity and nature of the violation.
  • Imprisonment: Potential jail time, which may range from a few days to several years, depending on the gravity of the violation.
  • Probation: Assignment of probation with specific conditions, such as mandatory counseling, community service or regular check-ins with a probation officer.

Violators must attend a court hearing, where the judge will determine the appropriate penalties and any additional protective measures. A judge will decide on the penalties and any extra protective steps needed.

Safety for everyone

Breaking a restraining order not only leads to legal trouble but also adds stress to the person who sought protection. To avoid serious penalties, anyone under a restraining order must understand and follow all its rules. Following the restraining order helps keep everyone safe and respects the legal process.

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