Known as a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order in Pennsylvania, a restraining order is designed to protect victims of domestic violence. A PFA restricts an alleged abuser from having contact with the person who filed the order. Whether you believe that a PFA that has been filed against you is valid or not, it is critical to comply with all stipulations outlined in the order. Violating a PFA can result in additional penalties, loss of child visitation rights, and even jail time. If you’ve been charged with domestic violence or are subject to a PFA, it is vital to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney right away to ensure your rights are protected.
What Happens when Someone Files a PFA Against You?
In Pennsylvania, a PFA prohibits you from having any contact with an alleged victim, including contact via phone, text and email. It may even specify a minimum number of feet you must stay away from them. If you live together, this means you will not be allowed to return to your home. Depending on the specific circumstances, a PFA can also give your partner or spouse temporary custody of your children, which may seriously restrict your visitation rights and keep you from seeing them altogether. These are just a few potential scenarios. Situations can become even more complex, especially when two spouses own a business and work together. If you’re concerned about protecting your business interests, your business attorney can help you understand your rights under the law.
Penalties for Violating a Protective Order
If you are found guilty of violating a PFA, penalties may be:
- Up to six months in jail and a fine of $300 to $1,000
- Up to six months probation and a fine of $300 to $1,000
Penalties depend on the circumstances of the violation. If you violate a PFA, the victim may request that the court extend the Protection from Abuse order. You may also be held in contempt of court for violating a PFA. Being held in contempt of court means you forfeit your right to a jury trial, although you have the right to legal counsel. If an alleged victim files a petition for civil contempt and you are found to have violated a condition of the PFA or another court-approved agreement, you can be jailed for up to six months.
PFAs and Pending Cases
If you are facing other criminal or civil charges, violating a PFA can hurt those cases, too. For example, if you are facing charges for stalking and show up at an alleged victim’s home or workplace, a prosecutor can use this violation to demonstrate that you have no intentions of stopping the harassment. Not only that, if a violation of a PFA occurs during a divorce or child custody case, it can seriously damage your standing when it comes to matters of child custody or quick resolution of your divorce case.
Steps to Take if You Have Been Charged with Violating a PFA
Whether you are facing a PFA for the first time or have been charged with violating an order, it is always a good idea to consult a Chester County criminal lawyer who can help you understand your rights and act as your advocate.
Have you been a victim of domestic violence or need assistance with fighting a PFA? Our West Chester criminal lawyers can help.