ATASK Legal FAQs

Stalking is a criminal offense, the victim can go to the district court to file a criminal complaint on stalking and/or harassment charges against the stalker.

The statute of Stalking Law M.G.L.c. 265, sec. 43

  • Whoever willfully and maliciously engages in a knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person which seriously alarms or annoys that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and who makes a threat with the intent to place the person in imminent fear of death or serious bodily injury;
  • Whoever commits the crime of stalking in violation of a temporary or permanent vacate, restraining, or no-contact order;
  • Whoever, after having been convicted of the crime of stalking, commits a second or subsequent such crime;
  • For the purpose of this law, "Harasses" means a knowing and willful pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person, which seriously alarms or annoys the person. Said conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress.


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This law was enacted in 1978. The history of this law goes back to the early 1960s.

What is Abuse under the Chapter 209A Household Abuse Law

  • Attempting to cause physical harm
    e.g. Holding a knife toward the victim; trying to grab her arm or any body part, trying to throw things at her or around her, etc.
  • Causing physical harm
    e.g. Hitting, slapping, pushing, grabbing hair, stabbing, etc.
  • Placing another in fear of imminent physical harm
    e.g. Verbal or physical threats, destruction of property, violent or aggressive behavior, killing pets, etc.
  • Causing another to engage involuntarily in sexual relations by force, threat, or duress
    e.g. Rape, sexual abuse, and/or sexual assault, etc.


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The County District Attorney represents the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in nearly all criminal cases within the district and is responsible for prosecuting defendants accused of having committed criminal offenses. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts through the District Attorney has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime charged.

The prosecutor from the DA's office will present the victims interests and concerns to the court. An Assistant District Attorney (prosecutor) is assigned to a case once it enters the court system. It is not necessary for the victim to hire an attorney. Under the law, only a District Attorney and/or an Assistant District Attorney is allowed to prosecute a criminal case. The Assistant District Attorney and the Victim Witness Advocate will keep the victim informed of the progress of the case.

Victim Witness Advocates from the District Attorney's office work on criminal cases. They serve victims of serious physical and sexual assaults, domestic violence, children, elderly and handicapped victims, and family and friends of murder victims.

Victim Witness Advocates provide a consistent link between the victim and the District Attorneys office throughout each step of the court process. All efforts are made to give the victim the attention, assistance and reinforcement that she/he needs and deserves.

Obtaining an Emergency Restraining Order

During weekends, holidays or weeknights when the court is not open for the public, the victim can access an emergency order through the law enforcement agency. Any Justice of the Superior, District, Municipal, or Probate Court may issue an ex parte order granting emergency relief consistent with that authorized by a temporary restraining order if a plaintiff demonstrates a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of abuse. A judge is specifically authorized to issue such an order by telephone to a police officer who is responsible for recording the order on a court approved form. The officer in turn is obligated to deliver the order the next court business day to the clerk magistrate of the court having jurisdiction. The victim must also appear on the next business day to file a formal petition if she wishes to continue the emergency restraining order.

Remember: the restraining order is only good until the court is opened on the next business day.

This new law provides that out-of-state (not issued from Massachusetts) protection orders or protection orders issued in another jurisdiction, "will be fully enforceable in Massachusetts, and treated as if the order originated in Massachusetts." This law provides that:
  • A police officer may enforce a restraining order issued by another jurisdiction that has been provided to him/her by any source including the Domestic Violence Record Keeping System. Police may presume the validity of such restraining order, so long as the officer receives a statement by the person protected in the order that the order is currently in effect. The law specifically provides that police may rely on this statement.
  • A person with an out-of-state restraining order can appear in any district, probate, or superior court, or the Boston Municipal Court, to file a certified copy of a restraining order issued by another jurisdiction. Information from this order is made accessible to law enforcement by entry in the Domestic Violence Record Keeping System.

Note: The filing of a certified order is not a precondition to having the order enforced by law enforcement officers and in the court.

This new law provides that the court, through the emergency judicial response system, may grant emergency abuse prevention orders by telephone during court hours to persons who cannot appear in court without severe hardship due to a physical condition. The law further provides that a representative may appear in court on the plaintiff's behalf to obtain a temporary order protecting the plaintiff.

It is also effective under the Federal Violence Against Women Act that any restraining order from Massachusetts will be given full credit to other states across the country.

2 Requirements for getting a restraining order:

1.  The victim and the batterer are related in one of the following ways:

  • They are related by blood
  • They are related by marriage
  • They have or had a substantial dating relationship
  • They are or were members of the same household
  • They have a child together

2.  The batterer perpetrated one or more of the following types of abuse:

  • Attempted physical harm
  • Actual physical harm
  • Placed victim in fear of imminent serious physical harm
  • Sexual abuse (force, threat or duress)

Procedure for getting restraining order:

  • Emergency - through police & Emergency Judicial Response System - valid until next business day
  • One party obtains order without notifying the other party (ex parte) - valid for up to 10 court-business days
  • Extended order issued after opportunity for both parties to be heard batterer could be in court - valid for up to a year
  • Permanent order - can be issued after the end of the extended order

Order could include:

  • No abuse
  • No contact with person requesting the order (and children) directly or indirectly
  • Vacate and stay away from home, work, school, etc.
  • Child custody, support, and visitation (visitation orders only in Probate & Family Court)
  • Monetary Damages

Violation of no abuse, no contact and stay away portions of a Restraining Order is a Crime

  • Mandatory arrest
  • Up to two and a half years in the house of corrections
  • Probation ( may include barterer's intervention program)
The Middlesex County District Attorney's Office has a Victim Witness Service Bureau that provides victim advocacy services in all twelve District Courts in the county.

The service includes:

  • Providing information regarding the court process and notification of trial, hearing, and sentencing dates.
  • Providing advance notice of continuances and arranging for the witness to be "on call" when possible.
  • Providing an orientation of the court facilities and accompaniment to court events.
  • Ensuring that there will be a secure waiting area.
  • Providing crisis intervention and emotional support.
  • Making referrals for financial, medical care, legal assistance, counseling and other social services.
  • Providing information and assistance regarding
    • Restitution and witness fees
    • Claims for Victims of Violent Crimes Compensation
    • Property return and intervention with employers or creditors
    • Victim Impact Statement and applications for Inmate Status Notification
    • Status of the case in the Appeals Court
    • Transportation and arrangement for the care of dependents
    • Planning for safety and protection
District Court has broad criminal and civil jurisdiction. In criminal cases, they hold probable cause hearings, which can result in a bind-over to a grand jury; non-jury trials for misdemeanors and some other criminal prosecution; and six person jury trials.

Civil jurisdiction includes trial of direct civil entries and cases remanded from the Superior Court; appeals from government agencies, including the Division of Employment Security and local zoning boards; actions under the spousal abuse statue and for reciprocal support enforcement; small claims; summary process (eviction); decriminalized traffic offenses; and petitions for the compensation of victims of violent crime. Six-person de novo trials are held upon defendant's appeal in a small claim actions.

Housing and juvenile cases are handled by the District Court in locations where the respective specialized court departments do not have sessions.

The Family and Probate Court has jurisdiction over family-related matters including divorce; separate support; protection petitions in cases of family, elderly, and disabled abuse; custody and adoptions. Jurisdiction also includes probate matters such as wills, trusts, guardianships, and conservatorships. General equity jurisdiction is the basis for new types of cases such as 'right to die' actions, medical treatment of incompetents, and administration of antipsychotic medications. The department has recently been given concurrent jurisdiction with the District Court Department over civil paternity and nonsupport actions.
  • Are / Were married to each other
    e.g. Currently spousal member or ex-spouses
  • Are / Were residing together in the same household
    e.g. Roommates; live-in partners
  • Are / Were related by blood or marriage
    e.g. Parents and Children, Uncle, Aunt, Cousins, Stepfamily
  • Are the parents of a minor child
    e.g. Out of wed-lock parents; adopted parents
  • Are / Were in a substantive dating or engagement relationship
    e.g. Boyfriend and Girlfriend, Same sex dating relationship, Finance

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