An Act Relative to Abuse Prevention

The 209A Responsibility And Accountability Act

Short version bill synopsis

Abuse prevention law (MGL 209A) is designed primarily to protect women from domestic violence. Over time, its provisions have been broadened to the extent that allegations of domestic abuse can become a powerful, no-risk weapon for someone seeking strategic legal advantage in a civil matter—particularly in divorce when custody of minor children is being contested.

A defendant subject to an abuse protection order can lose contact and all legal access to his children, be forced to vacate his home, have his name entered into a state-wide Abuse Registry (from which removal is presently impossible), ordered to pay restitution and child support all merely on the hearsay testimony of his accuser, at a hearing where he may or may not be present.

The law must find the delicate balance between these opposing interests: (1) ensuring that all victims of domestic violence receive the protection they need and, (2) protecting due process for the accused. This bill attempts to redress the imbalance that presently exists between these two conflicting interests. It provides some fundamental and essential rights for the accused, while removing incentives and providing some disincentives for fraudulent misuse of the law. This bill does the following:

House SECTION  1/Senate SECTION 4  modifies the definition of abuse: "placing another in fear of imminent serious physical harm" is replaced by "threatening another with imminent serious physical harm"

House SECTION  2/Senate SECTION 3  provides disincentives for committing perjury in order to obtain a temporary abuse protection order.

House SECTIONs 3 & 4/Senate SECTIONS 1 & 2 require that violations of the no-contact provisions of a restraining order be intentional.


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