Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Harassment Prevention Orders - What are they and How do I Qualify?

Harassment prevention orders are found under chapter 258E of the Massachusetts General Laws. This chapter was enacted as a response to inadequate protections for those being abused by acquaintances or strangers, as such protections are not available via Abuse Prevention Orders (aka Restraining Orders) found in chapter 209A.

A harassment prevention order can prevent the defendant (alleged assailant) from having contact with, abusing or harassing the plaintiff (alleged victim) and to remain away from the plaintiff’s residence and/or work.   The order can also provide compensation to the plaintiff for losses suffered as a result of the harassment.

In order to obtain the order, there must be showing of 3 or more truly threatening events that involve an intent to cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property and that do actually cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property.   Even if these individual events don’t each cause the requisite fear, a combination of all three events will suffice.   A harassment prevention order may also be obtained if the defendant engaged in an act that by force, threat or duress causes another to involuntarily engage in sexual relations, or that constitutes one of the following crimes:

-        Indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14, a mentally retarded person or    someone age 14 or older;

-        Rape, including rape and abuse of a child;

-        Assault with intent to commit rape;

-        Assault of a child, with intent to commit rape;

-        Kidnapping;

-        Stalking;

-        Criminal harassment; and

-        Drugging persons for sexual intercourse.

A harassment prevention order is initially temporary, and can last up to 10 days.  Thereafter, both parties must appear in court to present testimony and evidence as to why or why not the order should be extended.

Harassment is extremely serious and should be addressed, especially in situations involving more than 3 instances of harassment.   Safety is paramount, and you should speak on an attorney or law enforcement immediately following an instance of abuse.

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