Abuse is a word that many people equate with physical violence. Although physical abuse has dire legal consequences, the ramifications for verbal abuse can be just as severe. In Pennsylvania, a victim of physical or verbal abuse can file a Protection from Abuse Order, commonly known as a PFA.
A PFA is a court order that prevents an alleged abuser from contacting their victim. Not only can it force a recipient to avoid physical contact with someone, but violating a PFA can also lead to criminal charges. Here's what you need to know about PFAs and verbal assault in Pennsylvania.
How Do PFA Orders Work?
A victim can typically file a PFA in Pennsylvania if they can prove that abuse occurred. The victim must have an existing relationship with the person, such as being a blood relative, intimate partner, or adult guardian of a shared child. Pennsylvania Title 23 section 6102 outlines the definition of abuse. The following behaviors are grounds for a PFA:
- Attempting to cause or causing bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, or incest with or without a deadly weapon
- Knowingly or repeatedly placing a person in reasonable fear of injury
- Inflicting false imprisonment
- Physically or sexually abusing children
After someone files a PFA, a judge can issue a temporary protection order that prohibits an abuser from contacting their victim. The judge will review the evidence and make a determination during a court hearing. If the judge deems that abuse occurred, they can issue a long-term protection order that lasts up to three years.
Is Verbal Assault Grounds for a PFA?
Verbal assault can have just as serious repercussions as physical assault. Whether or not verbal assault constitutes a PFA order depends entirely on the words used and the circumstances surrounding them. Since Pennsylvania Title 23 Section 6102 determines acts that “place another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury” as abuse, you can be charged with abuse simply for issuing verbal threats.
A person may file a PFA order if they've received threats or intimidation from someone that causes them to fear for their safety. A judge may decide that verbal abuse occurred if someone states their intent to commit a hostile action against another person.
For example, threatening to harm, kill, or sexually abuse someone may warrant a PFA order. Simply using threatening words is not always grounds for a PFA order. A judge will evaluate evidence and consider the context surrounding the words to determine whether or not verbal assault occurred.
Under the Protection From Abuse Act, a PFA can prevent abusers from interacting with the victim, entering their residence or place of employment, or contacting their child. Breaking a PFA order can even lead to criminal charges like harassment or assault.
Your Pennsylvania PFA Attorney
If you've been issued a PFA order, it's critical to contact an Pennsylvania PFA attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have many years of experience fighting back against verbal assault claims and achieving favorable outcomes. Schedule a consultation today by calling 888-535-3686.