Harassment Prevention Orders

Harassment may occur in person or electronically (email, internet and social media or any combination).

What is Criminal Harassment?

Criminal Harassment is defined under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265, Section 43A:

Whoever willfully and maliciously engages in a knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts (at least 3 incidents) over a period of time directed at a specific person, which seriously alarms that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, shall be guilty of the crime of criminal harassment and shall be punished by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than two and one-half years or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment. Such conduct or acts described in this paragraph shall include, but not be limited to, conduct or acts conducted by mail or by use of a telephonic or telecommunication device including, but not limited to, electronic mail, internet communications or facsimile communications.

Summary of Notice of Rights for Harassment Victims

  1. A person suffering from harassment may file a complaint in the appropriate court requesting protection from such harassment. A person may petition the court under this chapter for an order that the defendant:
    1. refrain from abusing or harassing the plaintiff, whether the defendant is an adult or minor;
    2. refrain from contacting the plaintiff, unless authorized by the court, whether the defendant is an adult or minor;
    3. remain away from the plaintiff's household or workplace, whether the defendant is an adult or minor; and
    4. pay the plaintiff monetary compensation for the losses suffered as a direct result of the harassment; provided, however, that compensatory damages shall include, but shall not be limited to, loss of earnings, out-of-pocket losses for injuries sustained or property damaged, cost of replacement of locks, medical expenses, cost for obtaining an unlisted phone number and reasonable attorney's fees.
  2. The court may order that information in the case record be impounded in accordance with court rule.
  3. No filing fee shall be charged for the filing of the complaint. The plaintiff shall not be charged for certified copies of any orders entered by the court, or any copies of the file reasonably required for future court action or as a result of the loss or destruction of plaintiff's copies.
  4. Any relief granted by the court shall not extend for a period exceeding 1 year. Every order shall, on its face, state the time and date the order is to expire and shall include the date and time that the matter will again be heard. If the plaintiff appears at the court at the date and time the order is to expire, the court shall determine whether or not to extend the order for any additional time reasonably necessary to protect the plaintiff or to enter a permanent order. When the expiration date stated on the order is on a date when the court is closed to business, the order shall not expire until the next date that the court is open to business. The plaintiff may appear on such next court business day at the time designated by the order to request that the order be extended. The court may also extend the order upon motion of the plaintiff, for such additional time as it deems necessary to protect the plaintiff from harassment. The fact that harassment has not occurred during the pendency of an order shall not, in itself, constitute sufficient ground for denying or failing to extend the order, or allowing an order to expire or be vacated or for refusing to issue a new order.
  5. The court may modify its order at any subsequent time upon motion by either party; provided, however, that the non-moving party shall receive sufficient notice and opportunity to be heard on said modification. When the plaintiff's address is inaccessible to the defendant as provided in section 10 and the defendant has filed a motion to modify the court's order, the court shall be responsible for notifying the plaintiff. In no event shall the court disclose any such inaccessible address.
  6. The court shall not deny any complaint filed under this chapter solely because it was not filed within a particular time period after the last alleged incident of harassment.
  7. An action commenced under this chapter shall not preclude any other civil or criminal remedies. A party filing a complaint under this chapter shall be required to disclose any prior or pending actions involving the parties; including, but not limited to, court actions, administrative proceedings and disciplinary proceedings.

STCC Police Response

Section 8. Whenever a law officer has reason to believe that a person has been abused or harassed or is in danger of being abused or harassed, such officer shall use all reasonable means to prevent further abuse or harassment. Law officers shall make every reasonable effort to do the following as part of the emergency response:

  1. assess the immediate physical danger to the victim and provide assistance reasonably intended to mitigate the safety risk;
  2. if there is observable injury to the victim or if the victim is complaining of injury, encourage the victim to seek medical attention and arrange for medical assistance or request an ambulance for transport to a hospital;
  3. if a sexual assault has occurred, notify the victim that there are time-sensitive medical or forensic options that may be available, encourage the victim to seek medical attention and arrange for medical assistance or request an ambulance for transport to a hospital;
  4. provide the victim with referrals to local resources that may assist the victim in locating and getting to a safe place;
  5. provide adequate notice to the victim of the victim's rights including, but not limited to, obtaining a harassment prevention order; provided, however, that the notice shall consist of providing the victim with a copy of the following statement before the officer leaves the scene or premises and after reading the statement to the victim; provided further, that if the victim's native language is not English, the statement shall be then provided in the victim's native language whenever possible:

    "You have the right to appear at the Superior, Juvenile (only if the attacker is under 17), District or Boston Municipal Court, if you reside within the appropriate jurisdiction, and file a complaint requesting any of the following applicable orders:

    1. an order restraining your attacker from harassing or abusing you;
    2. an order directing your attacker to refrain from contacting you;
    3. an order directing your attacker to stay away from your home and your workplace;
    4. an order directing your attacker to pay you for losses suffered as a result of the harassment or abuse, including loss of earnings, out-of-pocket losses for injuries sustained or property damaged, costs of replacement of locks, medical expenses, cost for obtaining an unlisted phone number, and reasonable attorneys' fees.

    For an emergency on weekends, holidays or weeknights, the police will assist you in activating the emergency response system so that you may file a complaint and request a harassment prevention order.

    You have the right to go to the appropriate court and apply for a criminal complaint for sexual assault, threats, criminal stalking, criminal harassment, assault and battery, assault with a deadly weapon, and assault with intent to kill or other related offenses.

    If you are in need of medical treatment, you have the right to request that an officer present drive you to the nearest hospital or otherwise assist you in obtaining medical treatment.

    If you believe that police protection is needed for your physical safety, you have the right to request that the officer present remain at the scene until you can leave or until your safety is otherwise ensured. You may also request that the officer assist you in locating and taking you to a safe place including, but not limited to, a designated meeting place for a shelter or a family member's or a friend's residence or a similar place of safety.

    You may request and obtain a copy of the police incident report at no cost from the police department.

  6. assist the victim by activating the emergency judicial system when the court is closed for business;
  7. inform the victim that the abuser will be eligible for bail and may be promptly released; and
  8. arrest any person that a law officer witnessed or has probable cause to believe violated a temporary or permanent vacate, restraining, stay-away or no-contact order or judgment issued under this chapter or similar protection order issued by another jurisdiction; provided, however, that if there are no vacate, restraining, stay-away or no-contact orders or judgments in effect, arresting the person shall be the preferred response if the law officer witnessed or has probable cause to believe that a person:
    1. has committed a felony;
    2. has committed a misdemeanor involving harassment or abuse as defined in section 1; or
    3. has committed an assault and battery in violation of section 13A of chapter 265; provided further, that the safety of the victim shall be paramount in any decision to arrest; and provided further, that if a law officer arrests both parties, the law officer shall submit a detailed, written report in addition to an incident report, setting forth the grounds for arresting both parties.

    No law officer shall be held liable in a civil action for personal injury or property damage brought by a party to an incident of abuse or for an arrest based on probable cause when such officer acted reasonably and in good faith and in compliance with this chapter.

    Whenever a law officer investigates an incident of harassment, the officer shall immediately file a written incident report in accordance with the standards of the law officer's law enforcement agency and, wherever possible, in the form of the National Incident-Based Reporting System, as defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The latter information may be submitted voluntarily by the local police on a monthly basis to the crime reporting unit of the state police crime reporting unit established in section 32 of chapter 22C.

    The victim shall be provided with a copy of the full incident report at no cost upon request to the appropriate law enforcement department.

    When a judge or other person authorized to take bail bails any person arrested under this chapter, reasonable efforts shall be made to inform the victim of such release prior to or at the time of the release. When any person charged with or arrested for a crime involving harassment under this chapter is released from custody, the court or the emergency response judge shall issue, upon the request of the victim, a written no-contact order or stay-away order prohibiting the person charged or arrested from having any contact with the victim and shall use all reasonable means to notify the victim immediately of release from custody. The victim shall be provided, at no cost, with a certified copy of the no-contact or stay-away order.

Local Resources

The Court has trained domestic violence advocates that are there to assist you with completing the paperwork. If court is not in session, the STCC Police Department can assist you with obtaining an emergency restraining order. If you are a victim of abuse and need treatment or referral, call toll-free: SafeLink, a Massachusetts statewide multilingual, 24-hour service hotline at 1-877-785-2020. Visit the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance at www.state.ma.us/mova

24-Hour Domestic Violence / Sexual Assault Resources

If you, or someone that you know, is questioning is this abuse? the Hampden County District Attorney's Office encourages you to explore the sites below or come to the Domestic Violence Intervention Office to have your questions answered.

Hampden County District Attorney's Office

YWCA: Springfield

Womanshelter/ Companeras:
Holyoke 413-536-1628

Safe Passage: Northampton

Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project:


Information on Safety Planning

Domestic Violence Information