A restraining order, a document that is sometimes referred to in some states as an order of protection, is a binding legal order that is issued by a court, and judge (or magistrate). Most of the time, restraining orders are issued in cases when one part is accused of harassing, stalking, endangering, or threatening another person. The victim in question usually requests the restraining order in the hopes to better protect themselves against the defendant or aggressor.
The terms that are given in any particular restraining order can differ according to the type of behavior that is exhibited by the aggressor in question. Sometimes, the order might dictate that the aggressor will not have permission to approach the place of work for the victim, or the home. In some cases, the restraining order may indicate that the offender will be prohibited from making contact with the victim, either in person, or via electronic means. Many aggressors who face a restraining order will often violate the order intentionally but it's important to note that the consequences of doing this can be very severe.
In Massachusetts, violation of a restraining order is covered by Section 7 of Chapter 209A of the Massachusetts General Laws.
It is important to note that it is vital to comply with a restraining order, even if the victims invite you into their house because if they change their mind later, you may still be charged.
Penalties and Fines for Restraining Order Violations
Though a restraining order may only be a piece of paper on the surface, it's still a legally binding document that means that the restrained individual can face serious consequences if they ignore the conditions that are laid out in the order.
In Massachusetts, violation of a restraining is punished by a fine of $5000 and possible jail time of up to 2.5 years.
Violations of Temporary Restraining Orders
In cases that involve temporary restraining order violations, it's important to remember that there are still penalties. The penalties that come with violating a restraining order apply regardless of whether the restraining order that has been put in place is permanent or temporary. The court draws no distinction between both options, since many times, temporary orders are classed as more of a place holder for more permanent orders, which can be later issued on the date when a court hearing is scheduled for the various parties who might be involved. So long as the restraining order in question is official, the violation of that order can and will lead to a serious of consequences including the penalties that are addressed above. The person who holds the restraining order, however, will often have no say on whether or not the penalties will actually be applied, so the person cannot then change their mind and decide not to press charges once an order has been violated.
Firearms in Violation of a Restraining Order
Restraining orders may contain provisions that forbid the restrained individual from possessing a firearm. In Massachusetts, this is covered by Section 129Bof Chapter 140 of the Massachusetts General Laws. If someone subject to these specific conditions is then court with a firearm, they will be subject to state charges for violating the restraining order, as well as federal charges.
Though the person in this instance may only face a charge at a misdemeanor level for violating the restraining order that forbids him or her from possessing a firearm, or coming too close to another individual, federal law will carry with it the potential of more serious punishment. A person who violates the federal law that prohibits a person under a restraining order from possessing a firearm will face up to ten years in prison, as well as a serious and often quite large fine.
Defenses in Violation of Restraining Order Cases
As with other offenses, it is possible to launch a defense against a potential charge or accusation of violation of a restraining order, if you want to protect yourself from the possibility of fines and jail time.
- Usually, the most common defense that is used in the charge of violation against a restraining order is that the violation that took place was not intentional or willful. In some cases, it is absolutely possible for a person to violate a restraining order without meaning to do so. For instance, an individual who has a restraining order against them might simply go to the same place as the person that they have been ordered to stay away from - without knowing that they would be there.
- Other defenses that might be used in cases that involve the violation of a restraining order may include legality and knowledge. For example, the defense of knowledge means that the individual with the order placed against them did not have knowledge or notice of the order, and did not realize that they had violated it. On the other hand, the defense of legality can be used when the restraining order was not issued for a legal purpose in the first place. This usually means that the underlying basis used for the restraining order was either exaggerated or false.
- It is worth noting that these defenses can be difficult to launch successfully, as in cases that involve the violation of a restraining order, much of the trial is based on one person's word against what the other person says has happened.
What to Do If You Have Been Charged
If you are faced with a violation of restraining order charge, consult an expert criminal defense attorney as early as possible, particularly one who has experience in this legal issue.