Photo of Chief Steven Wojnar of the Dudley, Massachusetts Police Department

Week of May 17, 2020

A weekly column by Police Chief Steven Wojnar of the Dudley Police Department

The COVID-19 situation continues to pose many challenges.  Among the many businesses closed during this pandemic, have been courthouses.  Most (including Dudley District Court) have now re-opened for some business, however, much of the in-person service, is limited.  As a result of these restrictions, police departments from across the state have been assisting with many of the court-related functions.  With limited operations and stay at home advisories in place, I was asked to explain how a person can obtain a restraining order in the event they needed one.

Retraining orders are abuse prevention orders issued under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 209A.  To qualify, a person must be in some form of a domestic relationship and be the victim of abuse.  If a person qualifies and wishes to seek the protection of one of these orders, and it is during normal business hours, it is recommended they call their local court and seek advice on how to proceed.  If the court is closed or unable to process the request at that time, victims can call or go to their local police station or state police barracks. From there, an application for protection will be completed.  Officers will then contact a judge to review the information.  Outside of normal court hours, the state provides judges “on-call” specifically for these purposes.  If enough information is present to issue this document, the judge will authorize the order over the phone.  The order will then be in effect until a future date.  At that time, the person requesting the order will need to appear at court.  The defendant also is given the opportunity to attend the hearing to determine what should occur going forward.  The presiding judge can extend, amend, or vacate (dismiss) these temporary orders.  Orders issued remotely, or after hours, have the same force and effect as those completed through the normal court proceedings.  It is important to note, however, these orders are only effective once they have been served on a defendant. This may be challenging in some cases and officers will seek the assistance of the victim in locating the subject of the order.

Many measures can be taken to limit harm from a potential attacker.  These orders are only a small part of the actions potential victims should take to ensure their safety and that of others around them.  If you fear abuse or violence from another, contact the police or a victim service organization to find out what options are available to you for your protection. 

Thanks again go out to the men and women from my department for their continued dedicated service to the Town of Dudley.  Thanks also go out to the many Fire and Emergency Services members, public works and government employees, hospital workers, grocery and retail workers, and all other “essential” personnel for their continued hard work and service thorough this situation.  We will get through this and hopefully we will be back in full swing soon, with as limited negative impact as possible. 

Thanks again for your questions and comments.  Please send them to me at the Dudley Police Department 71 West Main St., Dudley, Ma. 01571 or email at swojnar@dudleypolice.com.  Opinions expressed in this weekly column are those of Chief Wojnar only and unless clearly noted, do not reflect the ideas or opinions of any other organization or citizen.  

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