A Protection From Abuse order (PFA) in Pennsylvania forbids a defendant from contacting a victim directly or indirectly. Knowing what kind of conduct to avoid is crucial for a defendant because violation of a PFA can result in criminal charges and up to six months in jail.
The specific terms of PFAs vary from case to case, but generally, a defendant who contacts the named victim in any way — including online or through a third party — may be in violation of the PFA. Even a seemingly harmless text message can constitute a violation under Pennsylvania law.
Facebook “Likes,” Messages, and Posts Can Violate a PFA
In Pennsylvania, courts have found that defendants violated their PFAs by “liking” posts on Facebook, sending Facebook messages, and posting Facebook comments.
In 2015, a Pennsylvania man was found to have violated the no-contact provision of a PFA by “liking” 22 videos and photos on the victim's Facebook page.
In March of 2022, police arrested a Howard man for violating a PFA by contacting the victim through Facebook calls and messages.
In 2016, a Pennsylvania court upheld a finding that the defendant violated a PFA by writing Facebook posts on his own page that alluded to the victim and their relationship, even though the defendant did not use the victim's name. The case involved a PFA that prohibited any direct or indirect contact with the victim and also specifically stated that the defendant could not post any remarks about the victim on any social media network.
The case law regarding what constitutes contact online or on social media with regard to PFAs is evolving, and what constitutes a PFA violation will likely be determined on a case-by-case basis. The Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm has years of experience navigating these complex issues.
Communication Through Another Person Can Violate a PFA
Communication made through another person can also violate a PFA.
In a 2016 case, a Pennsylvania court found that a defendant violated a PFA when, in a parking lot, he asked his daughter to ask his wife, who was also in the parking lot, whether she had spoken to her lawyer about the sale of their former home. Even though the wife responded by shouting her response from across the parking lot, the defendant was later charged with violating his PFA based on the communication he made with his wife through their daughter.
Contact An Attorney Who Has Experience With PFAs
The consequences of violating the terms of a PFA are significant. If you have been accused of violating a PFA, are unsure about the terms of a PFA, or are seeking guidance about how to comply with a PFA, it's important to work with an attorney who has experience with the nuances and complexities of PFAs in Pennsylvania. Contact Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his experienced team at the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form.