In 2015, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the Protection of Victims of Sexual Violence or Intimidation (PSVI) Act to establish a civil remedy similar to the Protection from Abuse (PFA) Act protecting “family or household members” from abuse of a physical or sexual nature or otherwise. However, unlike the PFA law, the PSVI law neither requires proving the domicile or relationship status of the alleged offender nor a filed criminal complaint. While the law provides greater protection for suspected victims of abuse, there is a significant risk of legal misapplication.
What Is Pennsylvania's PSVI Law?
In addition to PFA's, PSVIs supported under PCS Title 42, Chapter 62, Section 6203 permit certain alleged victims to seek two separate protective orders:
- Sexual Violence Protective Order (SVP): for victims of sexual violence, regardless of the victim's age.
- Protective Order from Intimidation (PFI): for victims under 18 years of age involving intimidation by an alleged perpetrator 18 years of age or older. PFIs cannot be granted in matters of abuse or intimidation involving two minors, two adults, or where an adult would be a plaintiff against a minor.
Under the PFA law supported under PCS Title 23, Chapter 61, Section 6102, protective orders may only be carried out on “spouses or persons who have been spouses, persons living as spouses or who lived as spouses, parents and children, other persons related by consanguinity or affinity, current or former sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood.”
Pennsylvania's PSVI law states that anyone who is not a “family or household member” can be subject to a no-contact order. Therefore, co-workers, classmates, neighbors, peers, and others can be served by the court system.
No-Contact Directives Through PSVI
Unlike a restraining order, a no-contact order can be sought after an abusive action—physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional—has occurred. Nevertheless, civil protection orders can be filed whether or not the incident is reported to law enforcement authorities. While the provisions of the PSVI law are carried out, the defendant is barred from direct or indirect contact with the plaintiff.
When a no-contact order is implemented, the defendant may be prohibited from engaging in the following:
- Contacting the plaintiff by phone, mail, or in-person
- Entering the plaintiff's residence
- Going into or even traveling by the plaintiff's place of employment
- Dropping off or picking up the plaintiff if they are of school age
- Interacting with the plaintiff on social media or other online outlets
- Indirectly communicating or attempting to establish communication with third parties of the plaintiff like friends, family, or peers
While no-contact orders protect plaintiffs, the defendant may have their life upended if the complainant is a classmate, co-worker, or neighbor. Even if the defendant is found not to be responsible or guilty of the alleged violations or civil infractions, the provisions of the law create a minefield of obstacles that lead to immense challenges. Defendants often aren't briefed on the nuances of direct and indirect contact, and violations will be addressed swiftly and harshly, even if they are unknowingly breached.
Penalties for Violating Pennsylvania's PSVI law
Although protective orders under SVP and PFI are civil in nature, a plaintiff can file a petition for civil contempt on the defendant. This can lead to apprehension by law enforcement, and the defendant may face incarceration for up to six months in addition to a $1,000 fine. A hearing will be scheduled within ten business days of filing the plaintiff's complaint or charge from the authorities of indirect criminal contempt. Any subsequent violation will result in a supplementary six months in jail and appropriate fines.
What to Do When Pennsylvania's PSVI Law Is Used Against You
When someone seeks against you any of the protective orders the PFA or PSVI laws provide, emotions are typically running high. Relationship-based instances of civil or criminal allegations can often spiral out of control. Often, those accused of abusive behavior in domestic, pedagogic, and professional settings or otherwise feel the allegations are unjust and result from a misunderstanding. The law's broad reach can even threaten defendants when no abusive behavior has occurred at all.
To protect yourself against Pennsylvania's PSVI Law:
- Stay calm and refrain from contacting your accuser
- Do not say anything to friends, family, or peers about the situation
- Avoid posting information pertinent to the matter on social media
- Immediately contact Pennsylvania defense attorney Joseph D. Lento
Hearings are scheduled within ten business days following any civil directives. For defendants not versed in Pennsylvania law, the process will be intimidating. You have a short time to prepare an argument to defend yourself while continuing to work and manage your daily activities.
Since anything you do or say can be used as evidence against you during your hearing, take the situation seriously. Consequences will stay with you for years to come. Therefore, hire proven Pennsylvania defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to guard you against being misbranded as an abuser and keep your reputation intact.
How Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Can Help You
If you're being threatened with a protection from abuse order in Pennsylvania, you need representation with paramount experience and a proven track record of relief for their clients. While your small-town lawyer may promise they'll fight for you in front of the judge or magistrate, they may not understand the nuances in frequent legislative updates and how various cities and counties apply the myriad of directives within the PSVI law.
The skilled defense team at the Lento Law Firm knows how emotional instances involving no-contact directives against co-workers, friends, loved ones, and others can be. While they empathize with bereaved defendants, they work tirelessly to get your life back on track.
If you're subject to allegations of abuse, remember that with the right support and legal counsel, you can move forward with your life. To learn how Attorney Lento and his expert team can help you, call 888-535-3686 or contact us via our online consultation form today.