Restraining orders are powerful legal tools designed to provide protection for individuals facing threats, harassment, or abuse. However, there’s often confusion surrounding whether obtaining a restraining order results in an entry on an individual’s criminal record. In this blog, we’ll address this common concern and provide clarity on whether a restraining order goes on your criminal record in Massachusetts.
Understanding Restraining Orders:
1. Definition and Purpose:
A restraining order, also known as a protective order or order of protection, is a court-issued directive that legally prohibits an individual from contacting or approaching another person. Its primary aim is to prevent further harm, harassment, or intimidation.
2. Varieties of Restraining Orders:
In Massachusetts, there are different types of restraining orders, each tailored to specific circumstances. These include Abuse Prevention Orders (also known as 209A orders), Harassment Prevention Orders (258E orders). Each has its own specific legal requirements to obtain.
Impact on Criminal Record:
In Massachusetts, obtaining a restraining order does not result in an entry on your criminal record. Restraining orders are civil orders issued by the court to protect individuals from harm, and they are separate from criminal proceedings. But the story doesn’t end there because Massachusetts has its own separate record for restraining orders.
Separate Record System for Restraining Orders:
While neither a restraining order (209A) or a harassment prevention order (258E) will appear on your criminal record, it is important to note that there is a separate record kept for restraining orders in Massachusetts. It is commonly referred to as the “Statewide Domestic Violence Record Keeping System.” It is very similar to the criminal record system. If a Judge ever enters either type of restraining order against you, even for a short period of time (i.e., think 1 day), then it will appear on this record forever. Further, absent exceptional circumstances, it is almost impossible to have it removed. Like your criminal record, this record of restraining orders will be used by the police, prosecutors, and judges if you are ever charged with any criminal charges. This type of record can impact conditions of release, bail and sentencing in your criminal matter.
Distinction Between Civil and Criminal Matters:
1. Civil Nature of Restraining Orders:
Restraining orders are civil matters that focus on preventing future harm or harassment. They are typically issued in response to allegations of abuse, harassment, or threats and do not result in criminal charges on their own.
2. Criminal Records and Convictions:
Criminal records pertain to convictions resulting from criminal offenses. If someone is charged with a criminal offense related to harassment, stalking, or similar conduct, this might lead to a criminal record entry.
Exceptions and Criminal Charges:
It’s important to note that while a restraining order itself does not result in a criminal record, violating the terms of a restraining order can lead to criminal charges. If you violate a restraining order, you might face legal consequences, including criminal charges, which will likely end up on your criminal record.
In Massachusetts, obtaining a restraining order does not result in an entry on your criminal record. Restraining orders are civil orders designed to protect individuals from harm, and they are separate from criminal proceedings. However, it’s crucial to understand that violating the terms of a restraining order can lead to criminal charges, which might have implications for your criminal record. If you have concerns about restraining orders or their potential impact, seeking legal advice from a qualified attorney is advisable. If you have any questions or would like to speak with one of our attorneys, please call or text us at (617) 227-8383.