What Happens if the Plaintiff Violates the Restraining Order in Massachusetts?

Woman talking to cop after being accused of violating her own Massachusetts Restraining Order.

In Massachusetts, a plaintiff cannot violate a Restraining Order because they are the party seeking protection. The only exception is if there are mutual Restraining Orders in place.If the defendant breaches the order by contacting or approaching the plaintiff, they can face serious consequences. These may include arrest, fines, or even imprisonment, depending on the severity and recurrence of the violation. Restraining Orders are enforced by the court to ensure the safety and well-being of the protected individual. Any violation is taken seriously and may result in swift legal action.

The Role of Restraining Orders in Legal Protection

Restraining Orders, often referred to as protective orders, are vital tools in Massachusetts law designed to protect you from various forms of:

  • abuse,
  • harassment, or
  • threats.

This guide aims to clarify the common misconceptions surrounding the roles of the plaintiff and defendant in the context of these orders, specifically addressing the issue of whether a plaintiff can violate such orders.

What is a Restraining Order?

A Restraining Order in Massachusetts is a legal document issued by a court that restricts one person’s (the defendant’s) actions towards another (the plaintiff) to prevent harm. If you’re the person who files for the Restraining Order, you’re the plaintiff.

Defining Roles:
Plaintiff vs. Defendant

In the realm of Restraining Orders, the plaintiff is the individual who seeks protection, and the defendant is the one from whom protection is needed. The legal responsibilities are clearly divided; the defendant is restricted by the terms of the order, which might include prohibitions on:

  • making phone calls,
  • sending text messages, or
  • engaging in any form of contact with the plaintiff.

Misconceptions About
Plaintiff Violations

It’s a common misunderstanding that plaintiffs can violate their own Restraining Orders. However, unless there is a mutual Restraining Order, only the defendant can be charged with a violation. A Restraining Order is one-directional, designed to protect the plaintiff from the defendant, and not vice versa.

Mutual Restraining Orders: Understanding the Exception

While rare, mutual Restraining Orders are issued when both parties are deemed to pose threats to each other. Here, both the plaintiff and defendant are subject to the restrictions of the order, and violations can occur from either side. The criteria for mutual Restraining Orders are essentially the same as they are for one-directional orders.

Legal Consequences of Restraining Order Violations

When a defendant violates a Restraining Order, they may face serious criminal charges, which could lead to jail time or a criminal record. A violation of a Restraining Order is a misdemeanor which carries a maximum penalty of 2 ½ years in the House of Correction.

Court Handling and Enforcement

The enforcement of your Restraining Orders is critical to its effectiveness. If you believe your abuser/harasser has violated your Restraining Order, you should call the police immediately. Tell them how the Order was violated and where they can find your abuse/harasser, if you know.

Guidance for Utilizing Restraining Orders

For plaintiffs, understanding how to effectively utilize a Restraining Order is crucial for maintaining safety. To get a Restraining Order, you have to fill out an application with your local court.

There will be something called an ex-parte hearing after you file your paperwork. Ex-parte just means “one party”. It’s called that because you’ll probably be the only one testifying at that time. A Temporary Restraining Order may be issued that’s valid for 10 days.

To extend it past the 10 days, you have to go to court for a 2-party hearing when your abuser/harasser can be present and testify as well. If the court is satisfied that you need the Order, it will be extended, usually for one year.

Help Getting a Restraining Order in Massachusetts

If you’d like help getting a Restraining Order without paying an expensive attorney, we can help. With our Legal Coaching we can walk you through every step to make sure you’re ready for your hearing. The first thing to do is see if you qualify for a Massachusetts Restraining Order. Click on the link below to see if you qualify for either type of Restraining Order.

Legal Disclaimer

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an attorney to discuss your specific circumstances and receive tailored guidance.

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