How Many Calls Does it Take to be Considered Harassment in Massachusetts?

Angry woman on phone being harassed in Massachusetts.

In Massachusetts, there isn’t a specific number of calls defined in the law that automatically constitutes harassment. Instead, harassment is generally determined by the nature and circumstances of the behavior. According to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265, Section 43A, a person commits criminal harassment if they engage in a “knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person,” which seriously alarms that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress. This behavior must involve at least three incidents. Therefore, it could be considered harassment if three or more unwanted calls are made that cause significant emotional distress to the recipient.

Massachusetts General Laws on Harassment

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265, Section 43A, harassment is defined as any knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person which seriously alarms and would cause substantial emotional distress to a reasonable person. This definition is crucial as it establishes that harassment must involve a persistent and targeted effort, which can include repeated phone calls.

Criteria for Criminal Harassment

To meet the threshold for criminal harassment, the conduct must include at least three separate incidents. These incidents must collectively instill a sense of alarm or distress. Understanding this criterion is the first step toward determining whether an individual’s experience with persistent callers constitutes harassment or is merely a nuisance.

Handling Obscene Telephone Calls and Electronic Communication

Recognizing Harassment Through Electronic Communication

In the era of digital communication, harassment can extend beyond phone calls to include text messages, social media, and other forms of electronic communication. Obscene language for the sole purpose of harassing someone through these mediums can also constitute harassment under state law.

If you’re receiving obscene calls or messages that cause emotional distress, it’s possible to seek relief through legal channels such as filing for a harassment prevention order. These orders are accessible through the Superior, District, Boston Municipal or Juvenile Court, depending on the age of the involved parties.

Obtaining a Harassment Prevention Order

Steps to File for an Order

A harassment prevention order, often a critical protective measure, can be issued to stop the harasser from making contact through any means, including phone calls. To obtain such an order, you must demonstrate the pattern of harassment to the court.

You’ll need to fill out specific forms and go for a hearing before a judge the same day you file those forms. The judge may issue a Temporary Order that’s good for ten days. You’ll then go back to court on the tenth day and ask for an extension. Extensions are usually for one year.

Importance of Documentation

Documenting every incident, including:

  • dates,
  • times, and
  • the content of the communications,

strengthens your case when applying for a harassment prevention order. This documentation is vital in proving the pattern and seriousness of the harassment.

When Harassment Leads to Criminal Charges

Understanding the Consequences of Criminal Charges

If the harasser’s actions are severe, criminal charges may be filed. Convictions can lead to sentences ranging from fines and probation to jail time in a House of Correction or even state prison for subsequent offenses.

The Role of Law Enforcement

In cases where harassment escalates, involving law enforcement is often necessary. Police can offer immediate assistance and are crucial in documenting the harassment for future legal action.

Civil Lawsuit for Monetary Damages

Aside from criminal proceedings, victims of harassment may also consider filing a civil lawsuit to recover monetary damages. This can compensate for any emotional or physical harm suffered due to the harassment.

Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment

Harassment that involves sexual content might also constitute sexual harassment, leading to additional legal actions under laws designed to protect against a hostile work environment. It’s essential to identify the nature of the harassment accurately to apply the appropriate legal remedies.

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.

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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