If you have been served with a protective order in Boston, you are not alone. Every year, thousands of Massachusetts citizens, mostly men, are falsely accused of abuse of many kinds, resulting in restraining orders being issued against them. But with the right information and legal counsel, you can defend yourself against the alleged plaintiff’s accusations. Hiring the right restraining order defense attorney in Massachusetts might be the best decision you ever make.
What a Restraining Order Means
Under Massachusetts General Law, a restraining order can be issued against any individual when a plaintiff demonstrates a fear of physical harm, regardless of the existence or lack of evidence of a history of physical abuse. A temporary, 10-day protective order is generally issued first. If the court substantiates the plaintiff’s claims in court, the order becomes permanent and is called a 209A protective order. A 209A requires the defendant to refrain from all contact with the plaintiff, including but not limited to phone calls, e-mail, or any third-party contact. It can also mean the temporary loss of child visitation or firearm privileges. While a 209A is a civil order issued in civil court, a violation is a criminal offense, punishable by fines and jail time. For this reason, it is wise to seek legal counsel immediately after the temporary order is filed.
Why You Need Legal Counsel
As we all know, plaintiffs can use the system to their advantage to gain leverage in custody battles or divorce disputes, often intentionally provoking a violation. Reasonably frustrated, many defendants will end up making decisions that work against their best interests. Disregarding the mandates of the order will just help paint an inaccurate picture of your guilt. It is also never advisable to skip trial altogether, as it puts all the power in the plaintiff’s hands. Unfortunately, in restraining order cases, you are guilty until proven innocence. Gaining legal counsel is the only option if you want to win your case.
At the ten-day hearing, the plaintiff must return to court to substantiate the claims they made in the temporary order. While the defendant can opt out of trial, doing so will result in a one-sided case that will almost always not end in your favor. Appearing in court gives you the right to oppose the grounds of the case and offer testimony in your defense. However, with self-representation, the case almost always results in a he said/she said scenario in which the defendant’s criminal history or character defamations speak louder than the evidence, or lack thereof. This is where an attorney experienced in such cases can help. A defense lawyer can call witnesses on your behalf and even cross-examine the plaintiff to discredit the original claim that he or she was in fear of physical abuse. This will put your case and your best interests on solid ground.
When it comes to restraining orders, the scales of justice are often unfairly tipped. However unjust the original claims may be, a violation can permanently affect your professional career, reputation, or even immigration status. It is in your best interest to take a restraining order seriously and never assume your innocence will be clear without a strong defense. Find a defense attorney who can help you understand your rights and decide on your best course of legal action.