A Serious Offense
Violation of the terms of an abuse prevention order (209A order) is a criminal offense in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The violation of those terms can be severe or slight, but even a technical violation will subject the defendant to up to two and a half years in jail and up to a $5000 fine. Moreover, unless the court orders otherwise, a defendant convicted of a violation of an abuse prevention order shall be ordered to complete a "batterer's program" -- an intensive and expensive program designed for habitual abusers.
To make matters worse, courts often issue these orders with very little evidence to support them, and the circumstances in which people request the orders are usually such that even minor or technical violations will be promptly reported and pursued with the police. It is a recipe for a violation.
Defenses to a 209A Violation
Violations of abuse prevention orders can be defended based on the insufficiency of the paperwork, or the fact that the defendant was never served with the order. They can also be defended based on reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant actually violated the terms of the order.
In high-stakes cases, for example where the prosecution is seeking committed time for the violation, there are other defenses that may be worth discussing. If you or anyone you know is alleged to have violated a restraining order, you should contact an attorney immediately because the penalties are severe, and the proof necessary to obtain a conviction is relatively slight.
See: G.L. c. 209A s. 7.