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What to Do When Served With a Restraining Order in Massachusetts

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Served With a Restraining Order in Massachusetts

Restraining orders, or protective orders, are serious legal mandates. Any violation could subject you to severe legal penalties, especially if a violation is made while on probation or parole. When served with a protective order, you should always act fast in obtaining legal defense. Never try to represent yourself and be careful of what you say to the police. The sooner you consult with a criminal defense attorney, the better your chances will be to avoid criminal charges and protect your personal record.

What Are the Consequences of a Violation?

An initial restraining order, or ex-parte order, can be issued without your knowledge. However, the judge will wait until you are served with papers and appear in court before holding you liable. Once you receive notice of the order, you must follow the order carefully. It only takes one phone call, text, or drive-by visit to lead to an arrest. If arrested for a violation, the judge can hold you in jail without bail until your court date. What’s worse, defendants on probation or parole can be charged with a felony or face serious jail time, even if the plaintiff’s accusations are false. Defendants seeking U.S. citizenship can lose their chances altogether or face deportation if criminal charges are made.

What Defenses Should You Use in Court?

The bad news is that a restraining order can appear on your criminal record. The good news is that it will only appear on your record if the order is enacted in court. For that reason, the minute you are served with papers, you should start preparing your defense. Most police officers won’t tell you that you have a right to legal counsel in a restraining order trial. But a criminal defense attorney can do more for than you might expect. They can bring in witnesses to demonstrate your character, cross-examine the plaintiff, and gather evidence in your defense. If given ample notice, a lawyer can even review the claims of the order to prove that the plaintiff is not actually in fear of bodily harm.

What Happens if You Miss Your Court Date?

Refusing to appear at a hearing will only make matters worse. The judge can issue the order without hearing your defense, and some orders can last up to five years. If you know the accusations made by the plaintiff are false, it is always advisable to make your case in court. An experienced defense attorney can ensure your rights are protected and coach you on what to do or say in court to avoid self-incrimination. If your case is strong, a good lawyer can even convince the district attorney that a protective order should have never been filed.

A protective order violation can permanently affect your professional career, reputation, or your immigration status. While awaiting a hearing, it is crucial to abide by the order. In the meantime, consult with a defense attorney who can help you understand your rights and decide on your best course of legal action.