What Happens If You are Charged With Violating a 209A Restraining Order for A Facebook Post?

Attorney Gaudreau discusses whether or not a Facebook post can be considered a violation of a restraining order

Restraining orders are taken very seriously in Massachusetts. In fact, while a restraining order itself is a civil order, a violation will result in criminal charges. This is why it is so important to understand what type of contact is considered a violation. The widespread use of a social media platforms such as Facebook has led to some confusion about how far the restraining order extends. This report is intended to help you understand the connection between Facebook and 209A restraining order violations.

What is a 209A restraining order?

A 209A restraining order, or abuse prevention order, is a civil order by the court that is intended to protect a person from physical or sexual harm and from threat of harm from a family or household member. These orders can be obtained by :

  • present or former household member,
  • a relative, by blood or by marriage,
  • a co-parent or
  • a former or current boyfriend/ girlfriend.

The complaining party can call the police for an emergency 209A order when the court is not in session or they can apply for an order at their local district court. The complaining party must allege that the other party has attempted to cause or has caused physical harm, that they are in imminent fear of serious of physical harm or that they have been forced to engage is sexual acts by force or duress .

What does a 209A restraining order prohibit?

If you have been served with a 209A restraining order make sure you read the entire document to make sure you understand the terms. Obviously any physical abuse will violate the order. Other common restrictions include:

  • to refrain from abusing the named party
  • to refrain from contacting(directly or indirectly including through a third party
  • to stay a particular distance away from the person
  • to vacate and remain away from the household
  • to remain away from the workplace of the person
Can using Facebook be considered a violation of the restraining order?

Yes. Typically a 209A restraining order prohibits any contact to the complaining party, including indirect or third party contact. Indirect and third party contact includes using someone else or a social media platform to contact or harass the other party. This means you can not message them on Facebook, or post anything about them on your wall even if you don’t use their name. It is also important to consider “blocking” them so that they can not contact you. Always keep in mind that the restraining order is against you. The complaining party can contact you and not violate the order. If you respond however you will be violating the order.

How do I avoid violating the restraining order?

The best practice is to avoid the named party all together. Do not drive by, call or message them or post about them on any social media platform. If you are friends with them on Facebook unfriend them, block them and do not post anything about them on Facebook.

  • Nowadays social media is the norm. Almost everyone has Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you have been served with a 209A restraining order you must take it seriously. A violation can lead to criminal charges. If you have been served with a 209A restraining order it is in your best interest to contact an experienced attorney. If you have any questions about your specific situation contact DelSignore Law at 781-685-5924.