Is Violating a Restraining Order a Felony in Massachusetts?

Man in handcuffs getting arrested for violating a Massachusetts Restraining Order.

In Massachusetts, violating a restraining order (whether it’s a 209A Abuse Prevention Order or a 258E Harassment Prevention Order) is generally treated as a misdemeanor offense. However, if the underlying violation involves causing physical harm, threatening to harm, or using a deadly weapon, it can be prosecuted as a felony. The severity of the charges and potential penalties can depend on the circumstances of the violation and any previous violations or criminal history.

Navigating Restraining Orders in Massachusetts: Protecting Yourself and Understanding the Legal Process

Living under the threat of abuse or harassment can be terrifying, but in Massachusetts, there are legal measures in place to help ensure your safety and well-being. Restraining Orders, also known as protective orders, are powerful tools that can provide immediate protection from harm or harassment. Understanding the intricacies of Restraining Orders, the types available, and the legal consequences for violations is crucial for individuals facing abusive situations. This guide aims to empower you by providing comprehensive information on navigating the legal system effectively and seeking the protection they deserve.

Understanding Restraining Orders

A restraining order is a legal document issued by the court to protect you from harm or harassment by another person. These orders establish specific conditions and restrictions intended to safeguard the safety and well-being of you and your family. In Massachusetts, Restraining Orders can be obtained in cases of domestic violence, harassment, stalking, or other forms of abuse.

Types of Restraining Orders

Massachusetts recognizes several types of Restraining Orders, each tailored to address different forms of abuse or harassment:

  • Abuse Prevention Orders (APOs): These orders are commonly sought in cases involving domestic violence, where the petitioner fears imminent serious physical harm from a household or family member.
  • Harassment Prevention Orders (HPOs): HPOs are sought in instances of harassment or stalking, where the petitioner has a reasonable fear of harm or intimidation from another individual.


Understanding the specific type of restraining order applicable to your situation is crucial for ensuring the appropriate legal protection is in place.

Legal Consequences for Violating Restraining Orders

Violating a restraining order in Massachusetts is a serious offense that can result in legal consequences for the perpetrator. The severity of the violation and subsequent penalties depend on various factors, including the nature of the violation and any aggravating circumstances involved.

  • Misdemeanor Violations: A first-time violation of a restraining order is often classified as a misdemeanor, which carries less severe penalties. Misdemeanor violations may result in fines, probation, or a jail term of up to 2 ½ years in the House of Correction.


  • Felony Violations: Repeat violations or those involving aggravating factors can escalate to felony charges, which carry harsher penalties. Aggravating factors may include prior convictions for similar offenses, violations involving threats of violence, or instances of physical harm inflicted on the protected party.


Understanding the potential legal consequences of restraining order violations underscores the importance of adhering to the conditions outlined in the order.

Aggravating Factors and
Felony Charges

Certain factors can elevate a restraining order violation from a misdemeanor to a felony in Massachusetts. These aggravating factors may include:

  • Prior Convictions: Individuals with prior convictions for similar offenses may face harsher penalties for restraining order violations.


  • Threats of Violence: Violations involving threats of violence or intimidation toward the protected party may be treated more severely.


  • Physical Harm: Instances where the protected party sustains physical harm as a result of the violation can lead to felony charges.


  • Weapon Possession: Violating a restraining order while in possession of a weapon may result in felony charges due to the increased potential for harm.


Understanding these aggravating factors is essential for individuals seeking legal protection through Restraining Orders and for law enforcement and legal professionals tasked with enforcing and adjudicating these cases.

Legal Defense for Victims

For victims of abuse, seeking legal assistance and support is crucial for navigating the complexities of restraining order proceedings and ensuring their safety and well-being are prioritized. Legal defense options for victims may include:

  • Legal Representation: You may benefit from legal representation to help you in obtaining and enforcing Restraining Orders. Legal professionals can provide guidance on the legal process, help gather evidence, and represent the victim’s interests in court.


  • Victim Advocacy Services: Victim advocacy organizations and support services offer invaluable assistance to individuals navigating the legal system. These organizations provide emotional support, safety planning, and assistance with accessing resources such as shelters and counseling services.


By seeking legal assistance and support, you can effectively assert your rights and pursue legal protection from your abuser.

Building a Strong Legal Case

For victims of abuse seeking legal protection through Restraining Orders, building a strong legal case is essential for ensuring your safety and obtaining the necessary legal protection. Steps for building a strong legal case may include:

  • Documentation: You should document instances of abuse or harassment, including dates, times, and details of the incidents. Keeping a detailed record can provide valuable evidence in legal proceedings.


  • Witness Statements: Gathering witness statements from individuals who have observed instances of abuse or harassment can strengthen the victim’s case and corroborate their allegations.


  • Communication Records: Preserving communication records, such as text messages, emails, or voicemails, can provide additional evidence of harassment or threats.


By diligently documenting and preserving evidence, you can strengthen your legal case and increase the likelihood of obtaining a restraining order.

Navigating the Legal Process

Navigating the legal process surrounding Restraining Orders can be challenging, especially for individuals experiencing abuse or harassment. However, you should not have to face this challenge alone. Resources and support services are available to assist you in navigating the legal process, including:

  • Legal Assistance Programs: Many legal aid organizations and pro bono legal clinics offer free or low-cost legal assistance to individuals seeking protection through Restraining Orders.


  • Victim Advocacy Organizations: Victim advocacy organizations provide comprehensive support services to individuals experiencing abuse or harassment, including assistance with navigating the legal system, safety planning, and access to resources.


By accessing these resources and support services, you can receive the assistance and guidance needed to navigate the legal process effectively and obtain the necessary legal protection.

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.


Navigating the legal process surrounding Restraining Orders in Massachusetts can be complex, especially for victims of abuse or harassment. However, by understanding the various types of Restraining Orders available, the legal consequences for violating them, and the support services and resources available, you can take proactive steps to protect yourself and pursue legal recourse against your abuser. Remember, you’re not alone—seeking assistance from legal professionals and support organizations can provide invaluable guidance and support during this challenging time.

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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