Over the years, the Attorney has handled hundreds of cases involving including but not limited to: assault and battery, domestic abuse, restraining order violations, motor vehicle offenses, larceny offenses, drunk driving offenses, drug offenses. She has handled cases from pre-arrest stages, arraignment and bail hearings through the criminal process to pleas or trial by judge or jury. She has represented clients in District Courts throughout Massachusetts including but not limited to district courts located in: Chelsea, East Boston, Boston Municipal Court, Brighton, Brookline, Charlestown, South Boston, Lynn, Salem, Peabody, Newburyport, Gloucester, Woburn, Newton, Framingham, Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, Quincy and Brockton.
The Attorney has argued thousands of motions including Motions to Dismiss, Motions to Suppress Evidence and Statements and Motions to Exclude Evidence. The Attorney is available for representation of District Court criminal matters from the beginning to end, by resolution of dismissal, general continuance, continuance without a finding, a plea agreement, or trial.
In order for a person to obtain a restraining order against another individual pursuant to M.G.L. c. 209A in the district courts of Massachusetts, you must have had a relationship with the person you are seeking a restraining order against such as a romantic relationship or family relationship. However, unrelated persons or persons that never had such a relationship could not seek such an order.
If persons found themselves subject to abuse necessitating their seeking a restraining order, they were forced to file for a civil restraining order in the superior court of Massachusetts which could be a more expensive and complicated process for someone not represented by an attorney. Moreover, an order obtained in superior court did not carry the same penalties if there was a violation of such order. For instance, if someone violated a district court M.G.L. c. 209A restraining order, one could contact the police about the violation and the violator could be subject to criminal charges. If someone violated a superior court civil restraining order, he/she would have to be brought in front of the court on a civil contempt action.
Several years ago, the legislature attempted to address this situation by enacting the Harassment statute pursuant to M.G.L. c. 258E. While the enactment of this statute may have addressed this void, it unfortunately also has resulted in an influx of these type of matters being filed in the district courts. Many times a trial of such an order must be held in the district court with testimony being taken by the complainant, the defendant and witnesses. This has resulted in an unintended result of this statute.
The public must be advised that in order to establish harassment, the Plaintiff must prove that the Defendant, motivated by cruelty, hostility or revenge, willfully committed three or more acts aimed at a specific person, each with the intent to cause that person to experience fear or intimidation, or to cause abuse or damage to property, which, considered together, did in fact cause fear, intimidation, abuse or damage to property pursuant to M.G.L. c. 258E. O’Brien vs. Borowski, 961 N.E.2d 547, 557 (2012). Simple annoyance, sarcasm or other such conduct will not meet this threshold.
Abuse is consistent with a “true threat” and is defined in the act as “attempting to cause or causing physical harm to another or placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm. G.L. c. 258E sec.1. Moreover, fear under the act has been construed to mean of physical harm or fear of physical damage. O’Brien, supra at 558.
Deborah Gold-Alexander Esquire
In the past several years, this Attorney has represented many clients in various district courts in Massachusetts to defend these orders. The danger of these orders is that, while they are in civil in nature, should there be an alleged violation, then that alleged violation can become a criminal complaint which would have devastating consequences for a person with no previous record. Take for instance students who seek harassment orders against other students because of negative social media posts or family members who seek harassment orders against a daughter, son, mother, sister or brother because of family disputes. Take for instance other situations where an ex girlfriend seeks an order against a new girlfriend of an ex boyfriend or orders being issued because of neighbor disputes. These are actual cases for which this Attorney has provided representation of either a Plaintiff or Defendant. Many of these cases have resulted in “mini trials” in front of a judge in the district courts but others have resolved through the use of negotiation and mediation.
In the end, one should seriously consider the consequences of seeking such an order. Abusing the court process in seeking frivolous orders could result in potential civil liability to the Plaintiff. Whether you are contemplating seeking such an order or you have been served with such an order as a Defendant, you should definitely consult with an attorney and consider seriously hiring an attorney because of the jeopardy that one can be found as a result of the issuance of these orders.