209a Restraining Order Violations
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE ORDER IS VIOLATED?
Once a 209A Order is issued, violation of certain terms of the Order is a criminal offense. Violations of orders to refrain from abuse , to have no contact, and to vacate a household, multiple family dwelling or workplace, can be prosecuted criminally under chapter 209A. If the abuser violates the order, call the police immediately. Show the Order to the police and explain how it was violated ( a punch, slap, threat; entering your house or apartment or refusing to vacate; or, any contact with you at home or your workplace, either in person, by telephone or mail). The police must arrest the abuser if they believe or can see that the terms of the Order were violated. If you do not call the police, you may be able to file an application for a criminal complaint on your own at the Clerk’s Office in the District Court. A Victim/Witness Advocate can assist you with that process.
If you put yourself in contact with the abuser, he is vulnerable to arrest. Therefore, if you want any terms of the order to no longer apply, you should return to court and ask that the order be modified or vacated.
WHAT HAPPENS IF AN ARREST IS MADE?
If the abuser is arrested, seek assistance from the Victim/ Witness Advocate in the District Attorney’s Office the next morning after a nighttime arrest, or at any time during the day at the courthouse. A Victim/Witness Advocate will explain what the charges mean and what will happen next. The Advocate will also offer ongoing information, referral for services and cases updates throughout the time the case is in court.
WHAT CRIMES CAN BE CHARGED?
In addition to the crime of violating a 209A Order, an abuser can be charged with a number of other crimes committed at or near the time of the violation, some of which may include:
- Assault (G.L. c. 265, Section 13A), which is an attempt or offer to do bodily injury by force or violence or attempt to batter.
- Assault and Battery ( G.L. c. 265, Section 13A), which is a harmful or unjustified touching of another, no matter how slight, without a legal right to do so.
- Assault and Battery by Means of a Dangerous Weapon ( G.L. c. 265, Section 15), which is a battery with a dangerous weapon, such as a baseball bat, a shod foot, a knife or other object either inherently dangerous or used in a way that may cause serious injury or death to another.
- Threats (G.L. c. 27, section 4), which are verbal or written threats to do harm which a victim reasonably believes the abuser can commit.
- Trespassing ( G.L. c. 266, section 120), which is entering or remaining in a house or on land in violation of a 209A Order.
- Malicious Destruction Of Personal Property (G.L. c. 266, section 127), which is the destruction of or injury to personal property, a house or building in a manner that is willful and malicious.
- Stalking (G.L. c. 265, section, 43 (a)), which is the willful, malicious and repeated following or harassing of an individual and the making of threats with the intent to place that person in imminent fear of death or serious bodily injury. The penalties are greater for a conviction of a stalking crime committed in violation of a 209A Order.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER AN ARREST?
Once a criminal complaint has been issued or an arrest made, the abuser will be charged with the crime or crimes at an arraignment proceeding in the District Court. A bail hearing will be held to determine whether the defendant/abuser will be released from custody, the court must make a reasonable effort to notify you of the release, even if you are not present in court.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE ARRAIGNMENT?
It is important to provide information to the Assistant District Attorney before the arraignment and bail hearing regarding the history of the abuse and a description of the most recent abuse, including any pictures or hospital records of injuries. You should also mention the location of any guns or other weapons that you believe the abuser has in his or her possession.
The Assistant District Attorney ill bring this information to the attention of the judge, along with your safety concerns and fears at this time. The judge may also consider whether the defendant/ abuser should be jailed until trial; or, if the defendant/ abuser is to be released, what the bail and conditions of bail will be.
The Assistant District Attorney represents the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in prosecuting the case , and works with the Victim/Witness Advocate to address your interests and assist you during trial.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE ARRAIGNMENT?
Interviews will be held with you before the trial, to gather information and evidence for prosecution. Every effort will be made to consider your needs and safety in going forward with the case. The safety of your children will also be priority .
Prosecution may provide the means to gain batterer’s intervention services for the defendant/abuser as part of a sentence recommendation. Very few batterer’s seek or stay with these services on their own, without court orders and probation supervision. An Assistant District will speak with you about different sentences that can be imposed if the defendant /abuser is found guilty by a judge or jury or pleads guilty. The sentence asked for may include drug or alcohol counseling, required attendance at a batterer’s intervention program, supervised probation and /or jail time.
WHAT IS A CERTIFIED A BATTERER’S INTERVENTION PROGRAM?
Certified batterer’s intervention programs provide services in very strict group settings to try to help batterer’s learn to accept responsibility for their violence, as well as understand and change their controlling and abusive behavior.
The groups are led by certified batterer’s intervention counselor’s trained in dealing with domestic violence offenders. The programs work with the courts and victim services to help make sure that partners of batterer’s remain safe. The programs may involve weekly sessions of 1 to 2 hours in length. The batterer must participate in the program for a minimum of 80 hours. Group leaders feel your safety is a priority concern and will keep ongoing contact with you.
WILL THE INTERVENTION STOP THE ABUSE?
There are no guarantees that the violence will stop because the abuser attends a certified batterer’s intervention program. Many abusers drop out of programs or do not comply with the requirements, or only reduce their abuse temporarily. If the judge requires attendance as part of a sentence, dropping out may mean the defendant/ abuser may have to serve jail time. The abuser must want to change the abusive behavior and work hard at making those changes. Promises to change, flowers and apologies are not enough. You deserve to be safe and free from abuse.
YOUR RISK OF HARM
Statistically, the most dangerous time for victim is when leaving the batterer. The abuser may feel he is losing control and become dangerously angry. Take steps to protect yourself from abuse or punishment from your abuser. Please trust your instincts. If you are afraid that something may happen, take your feelings seriously and protect yourself. You know your situation better than anyone else.
SUGGESTIONS FOR PROTECTION
Develop a safety plan that includes an escape plan for you and your children should a violent incident occur. During an incident, try to move away from an area or room where access to weapons might increase your risk, such as the kitchen, or where you can be trapped or easily injured.
Call the police or leave the house as soon as possible after an abusive incident. The police will respond and stay with you until you are safe or in a safe place. The police will also help you seek medical treatment, if needed. If you feel you may be in danger, dial the police number and hang up before it rings, so that the redial button will automatically call the police if you need them quickly.
Be alert when leaving the courthouse. If you have any reason to believe your abuser may be waiting for you, please ask someone in the District Attorney’s Office or Court Advocate to help. A police officer or a court officer may be able to escort you to your car.
Guns or weapons will be ordered turned over to the police by the judge, along with any license to carry the guns and firearms identification card. Inform the police of any guns/weapons the abuser may keep in the house.
Consider changing the locks on your home. The judge can order the abuser to turn over the keys to your home and/or your car. Keep an extra set of keys in a safe place.
Inform your neighbors if a 209A order is in place. Encourage them to call the police if they see or suspect that something is wrong.
Make copies of important papers and keep them in a safe place. Make a list of the things you need to take with you (birth/medical records, marriage license, check/ bank books, credit cards, medications).
Keep emergency money and extra clothes for yourself and your children in a safe place or with someone you trust. Include a few toys and favorite things for the children.
Keep the victim’s service agency number handy for emergency shelter and for support groups.; You do not have to leave the abuser or have a 209A Order to attend the support groups. Information and support in making decisions are important.
Get Medical attention as you may be injured much more seriously than you realize. Go to a hospital emergency room or your private doctor as soon as possible for treatment. Ask for a copy of the treatment record.
Have pictures taken of your injuries and bruises at the hospital, police department, shelter or District Attorney’s Office.