Client Story: When Neighbors Aren’t Neighborly: Henry’s Story
Henry was being called before a judge in the Lawrence District Court to determine if a Harassment Prevention Order should be placed on him. Uncertain what to do, he called us for advice less than one day prior to the hearing. A Harassment Prevention Order is a restraining order that can be placed on persons outside your family and household. It is different than a traditional Domestic Restraining Order. In most cases, the person requesting the order must be able to cite three separate, willful, malicious acts against a them or threats that cause them to be in fear for their safety or the safety of their property. Harassment Prevention Orders are commonly used in contentious neighbor disputes, particularly over boundary lines or property uses.
This is exactly what Henry was struggling with. His new neighbor had extended their driveway into Henry’s lawn and cut trees that Henry believed to be on his property. Both Henry and his neighbor had surveys done, both believed they were right. As sometimes happens, angry words were exchanged. The neighbor requested that the court place a Harassment Prevention Order against Henry.
When we reviewed the facts with Henry, we determined that he had made no threats against his neighbor’s person or property. Yelling loudly and arguing about a disputed boundary is not enough to trigger a Harassment Prevention Order. Even being a jerk or being rude is not enough. The Harassment Prevention Order is meant to protect people from a clear threat to their safety and their property.
We accompanied Henry to court the next day and were successfully able to demonstrate that there were no threatening or harassing acts from Henry toward his neighbor, let alone on three separate occasions. The judge determined in Henry’s favor and no Harassment Prevention Order was issued.
It is important not to take a Harassment Prevention Order lightly. They are civil (not criminal) orders but a record of them is kept, which is similar to the criminal record, and they will follow you in legal proceedings for the rest of your life. Also, if a Harassment Prevention Order is violated criminal charges will be filed against you and can result in severe penalties.
Henry came to us because he was wisely concerned that having the order put in place against him would follow him. He was also concerned that if the order was put in place his neighbor might be spiteful and find ways to accuse him of violating it. Ensuring that the order was not granted was Henry’s best means of protecting himself. Contant Law 617-227-8383.
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