What Happens if I’m Accused of Violating a Protection Order in Pennsylvania?10 Nov 2022, by Criminal Defense, Family Law in
Written by Timothy Czekaj
If charged with violating a protection order in Pennsylvania, you may face significant penalties and even jail time. Whether you are subject to a restraining order that is temporary, emergency, ex parte, or final, you must comply with stipulations from the court. Even an accusation of a violation can land you in hot water.
What Are “Protection from Abuse” Orders?
A protection from abuse order (PFA) restricts contact between two people involved in a domestic violence situation. A PFA typically prohibits the person accused of domestic violence from contacting or being near the alleged victim.
You will be ordered to stay away from them, and the PFA will specify a minimum distance you must keep between yourself and the alleged victim.
Who Can Get a PFA Order in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, protection from abuse orders are used in domestic violence situations only. The following people can get a PFA:
- Someone who lives with the accused abuser
- An adult guardian on behalf of a minor child
- Someone who is related by marriage (including a spouse or in-laws)
- Someone related by blood (including parents, children, cousins, etc.)
- Biological parents of a child
- Current or past “intimate” partners (including people who are dating and/or sexual partners)
A person seeking a PFA does not necessarily have to live with the alleged abuser or have lived with them in the past.
Emergency, Ex Parte, and Temporary PFAs in Pennsylvania
A victim may obtain an emergency PFA immediately after domestic violence occurs. This is typically issued ex parte, without notice or a hearing involving the defendant.
These PFAs are temporary and can only be enforced until a final hearing occurs, allowing the defendant to challenge the protection order if they wish.
Even if the court is closed, emergency protection from abuse orders may be made by a Magistrate Justice or master for emergency relief. In Philadelphia, a bail commissioner may also issue an emergency PFA.
Final and Permanent PFAs in Pennsylvania
If the court finds a need for a permanent PFA, which is still typically limited to a certain number of years (up to 36 months), they will make an order after an official hearing where both parties are present. A final hearing must be held within ten business days of issuing a temporary protection order.
A final PFA will specify restrictions on contact and the parties’ physical presence. The parties may also agree to the details of a permanent restraining order.
Once a final PFA is issued, you will be placed on a Pennsylvania State Police registry. It can be enforced anywhere within the state. However, a victim may file a certified copy of a Pennsylvania PFA with another state, and the court and police of that state will enforce it as well.
Can I Fight a Restraining Order in Pennsylvania?
A restraining order can have a negative impact on your life. Because of this, you may want to fight it. At the official hearing in court, you can fight against the issuance of a final or permanent PFA.
This will require you to defend against claims made by the alleged victim. If the victim presents evidence that you made threats or abused them, you must present arguments that defeat their claims.
Working with an attorney is essential if you want to fight the issuance of a final PFA. Although the legal system should protect you, judges can be quick to order a PFA when a victim makes fake allegations. You will need to work with legal counsel with experience with these cases.
What are the Penalties for Violating a PFA in Pennsylvania?
Violating a PFA can result in significant criminal penalties. Failing to abide by the PFA order may make you guilty of criminal contempt. Penalties involve up to six months in jail and a fine of between $300 and $1,000. If you are found guilty, your attorney may be able to help you get probation instead of jail time. These penalties may be increased for subsequent violations of the PFA.
Unlike other criminal charges, you do not have a right to a jury trial if you are charged with criminal contempt. However, you do have a right to legal counsel. You should not talk to the police or answer questions until you get legal advice from a restraining order attorney.
Additionally, if you were facing charges for related crimes, such as stalking the alleged victim, then the violation of the PFA may be used as evidence against you. It can also be an aggravating factor when sentencing you for the related charges, resulting in higher penalties for that conviction.
Collateral Consequences of Being Convicted of a PFA Violation
Violation of a PFA will affect more than your criminal cases. Some consequences you may face if you violate a PFA order include:
- Restriction on your visitation or child custody
- Immigration challenges
- Damage to your reputation
- Driver’s license suspension
- Suspension or revocation of a professional license
How Can I Fight a PFA Violation Accusation in Pennsylvania?
If you are subject to a PFA order in Pennsylvania, you should avoid all contact with the alleged victim. However, if there is a misunderstanding or you are accused of violating the restraining order, you should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney. Even an allegation of a violation can lead to an investigation that might shatter your life.
Some defenses you can use to fight an accusation that you violated a PFA include:
- You have an alibi who can attest to your whereabouts.
- There is insufficient evidence to support the alleged violation.
- You have evidence to support the fact that you did not violate the order.
- You were not anywhere near the alleged victim.
- You have text and cell phone records proving that you did not contact the alleged victim.
When you work with a knowledgeable lawyer, they will utilize all the information available to fight your PFA violation case.
Call a Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Attorney
So much is at stake if you’re accused of a restraining order violation. You shouldn’t face the situation alone. You need a protection order violation attorney who understands the law and can protect your rights.
Czekaj Law, LLC knows how to use the available evidence to support your case and fight to keep you out of jail.