Defending yourself against a domestic violence restraining order

Defending yourself against a domestic violence restraining order

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2024 | Domestic Violence

Learning that you have been accused of domestic violence and had a restraining order entered against you can be devastating. Being labeled an abuser can have major consequences for many areas of your life, including your career, education and personal relationships.

Although a restraining order in Massachusetts is a civil order, violating one is a criminal charge that could leave you with a criminal record. If you are on probation or parole, a restraining order violation could result in revocation.

Types of restraining orders

There are two types of restraining orders in Massachusetts. The most common is an abuse prevention (“209A”) order. There is also a harassment prevention order, also known as a 258E order.

An abuse prevention order requires a certain relationship between you and the plaintiff and an allegation that you attempted or threatened imminent bodily harm or committed sexual assault.

There is no relationship requirement for a harassment prevention restraining order. A plaintiff must only allege that someone committed three or more acts meant to instill fear, harass, abuse or destroy property or that someone committed certain crimes against them.

Once a restraining order is in place, all a plaintiff needs to do is tell the police that you have violated it. You could be arrested simply over an allegation.

While the plaintiff must eventually prove the violation, that often does not stop police officers from making arrests without any proof.

As you can see, restraining orders and violations can be based on nothing more than someone’s word. This makes it relatively easy for someone who is out for revenge against you or wants to cause you trouble to obtain a restraining order against you.

Preparing for and attending your hearing

Therefore, it is important to act quickly when you are served with a restraining order. The documents you are served with should contain a hearing date and time.

You must attend this hearing or you risk having the restraining order against you made final for an extended period. This hearing is also your opportunity to defend yourself.

The restraining order you are served with might not contain the application for the order or the plaintiff’s affidavit. You must get a copy of these before your hearing since they contain the plaintiff’s allegations against you. You must know what you are defending yourself against.

The plaintiff must prove their allegations at the hearing. This means they must have evidence besides just their word that the abuse or harassment happened.

Examples of evidence include pictures, videos or witness statements. Without these, the plaintiff has not proven their case.

Defending yourself in court

You also have your own right to present evidence during the hearing. You can testify on your own behalf and tell your side of the story or bring in witnesses or other evidence to back up your claims.

For example, if the plaintiff states that you showed up at her house last Tuesday at 2 p.m. and punched her in the face, you could have your employer testify that you were at work on that day and time and so could not have gone to the plaintiff’s house.

The way you present yourself in court also matters. Dress properly and treat everyone in the courtroom with respect.

Do not speak unless the judge asks you a question or tells you that you may speak. When you do speak, stay calm and explain your version of the situation clearly. Never admit to anything you did not do.

You may feel hopeless upon being served with a restraining order but know that there are ways to fight it. Your future depends on it.