In Massachusetts, not all restraining order violations are a crime.
A defendant can be charged with a crime only if he violates certain restraining order conditions.
Those conditions are as follows:
- Refrain from abuse
- Gun-surrender order
However, other restraining order conditions—such as paying support, custody, utilities, etc.—must be enforced through criminal or civil contempt proceedings.
As noted by the Supreme Judicial Court,
It does not appear that all violations…are criminalized. [M.G.L. c. 209A, § 3] authorizes the court to issue numerous other types of orders, such as ordering the defendant to pay temporary support for the plaintiff and ordering the defendant to pay the person abused monetary compensation for the losses suffered as a direct result of such abuse. The terms of [M.G.L. c. 209A, § 7, which criminalizes certain violations] do not encompass these latter types of orders.Commonwealth v. Finase, 435 Mass. 310, Note 2., (2001).
Such violations should, instead, be handled through either criminal or civil contempt proceedings.
According to the Massachusetts’ Judicial Guidelines:
In many circumstances, civil rather than criminal contempt proceedings are preferred. The basic distinction lies, not in the contemnor’s actions, but in the court’s goal. If the court’s purpose is solely coercive or remedial, the contempt is civil. If the court has any punitive purpose (to punish the affront to the law or to deter others), the contempt must be treated as criminal.