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The National Trial Lawyers
Greater Lowell Bar Association

Annoying Telephone Calls

Making annoying or harassing telephone calls is a crime in Massachusetts that carries a potential jail sentence and a fine.

Elements of Annoying Telephone Calls

In order to convict a defendant of making annoying or harassing telephone calls, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:

  1. called the victim or caused telephone calls to be made to the victim, or contacted the victim by electronic communication or caused the victim to be contacted by electronic communication, at least three times; and

  2. solely intended the communications to either harass, annoy, or molest the victim or the victim’s family.

The Commonwealth is not required to prove the defendant actually had contact or conversations with the alleged victim, but only that he initiated the contact.

Electronic Communications is defined as the transfer of signs, writings, signals, images, data, sounds, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or part by a wire, electromagnetic, photo-optical, photo-electronic, or radio system.

Common Defenses and Defense Strategies

These cases can be defended in a variety of ways.

  • Identification – The Commonwealth bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is the person who initiated the contact. If the alleged victim never saw the defendant (which is common in these types of cases), it can sometimes be difficult to prove the defendant was responsible for making (or attempting to make) contact with the alleged victim.
  • Legitimate Purpose – If there is a legitimate purpose to the attempted contact, the defendant cannot be convicted under this statute. For example, if a charitable organization or a politician repeatedly calls an individual to request donations, this statute has not been violated (even though it’s possible the recipient might have legitimately felt annoyed or harassed by the repeated requests).
  • Defendant’s Intent – The defendant’s sole intent must have been to annoy, harass, or molest the recipient or the recipient’s family. Suppose the defendant was trying to reignite a romantic relationship with the alleged victim and attempted to do so by making repeated phone calls in a short period of time. Even if the contact justifiably annoyed and harassed the recipient, the jury must acquit the defendant if his intention was to get back together with the alleged victim.
  • Alleged Victim’s Bias – In these types of cases, it is typical for the person receiving the allegedly annoying communications to have negative feelings toward the defendant. It is normal for the alleged victim to want to see the defendant convicted of the criminal charges and punished. The alleged victim’s bias will be fully exposed by Attorney Spring during cross-examination. Additionally, if there is a relationship history between the alleged victim and the defendant (as is often the case), Attorney Spring will attempt to explore prior problems in the relationship to establish the alleged victim has an interest in having the defendant convicted of a crime as a form of revenge. Finally, if the alleged victim has ever been convicted of a crime, Attorney Spring will attempt to introduce that evidence to the jury.

A conviction for making annoying or harassing telephone calls can result in disastrous consequences for the defendant. It is important for you to hire an attorney experienced in defending these types of cases. Attorney Spring has such experience.

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