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Violation of Abuse Prevention (Restraining) Orders

A conviction for violating a restraining order has serious consequences, including a potential jail sentence.

Elements of a Violation of an Abuse Prevention (Restraining) Order

In order to convict a defendant of violating a restraining order, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. A court had issued a restraining order against the defendant that prohibited the defendant from contacting the alleged victim (or prohibited the defendant from some other activity, such as traveling to the alleged victim’s place of work);
  2. The order was in effect on the date of the alleged violation;
  3. The defendant knew about the terms of the restraining order; and
  4. The defendant violated the order.

Common Defenses and Defense Strategies

If you are charged with violating a restraining order, there are multiple avenues of defense.

Accident

If the defendant accidentally has contact with the alleged victim, he or she cannot be convicted of violating a restraining order. This scenario happens most frequently when a defendant runs into the alleged victim in a public place and immediately leaves upon seeing the alleged victim.

Alleged Victim’s Criminal Record

In many cases, it’s not only the defendant who has been in trouble with the law.  Attorney Spring will request a copy of the alleged victim’s criminal record and if the alleged victim has been found guilty of any crime (felony or misdemeanor), Attorney Spring may be able to share that information with the jurors.  Attorney Spring will also seek to admit any evidence establishing the alleged victim had previously harassed, or been violent toward, the defendant.

Bias

If the alleged victim has a restraining order against the defendant, there are obviously bad feelings between the parties.  At trial, Attorney Spring will point out to the jury that the alleged victim does not like the defendant, and the alleged victim’s testimony may not be entirely truthful.

Notice

The Commonwealth is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew about the existence of the restraining order. Usually when a victim obtains a restraining order, she does so at an emergency court hearing that the defendant does not know about and does not attend. Therefore, often times, the defendant will not know about the restraining order until some later date. If the defendant did not have notice of the restraining order, he or she cannot be convicted.

Personal Matter

Restraining order violation cases are emotionally charged because by definition, there was some sort of close relationship between the parties at some point in the past. Most restraining orders exist between people who were previously involved in a romantic relationship. In order to obtain a restraining order, the alleged victim has to assert that there is some reason why she is afraid of the defendant. The allegations made against the defendant are typically ugly, and the alleged victims are ordinarily very invested in the case.

Contact Us

Middlesex County criminal defense attorney Chris Spring prosecuted restraining order violation cases when he served as an assistant district attorney early in his career, and he has defended clients charged with violating restraining orders since founding Spring & Spring. He has the knowledge and experience to aggressively defend you if you have been charged with violating a restraining order, unarmed burglary, or any violent crime.