When someone obtains a protection from abuse order (PFA) against you in Pennsylvania, the order itself only comes with civil ramifications. These penalties are only civil, rather than criminal, because they do not imprison you or take your property from you in the form of fines. Criminal repercussions from a PFA only happen if you violate the order by not complying with its requirements.
Just because a PFA only has civil penalties, though, does not mean that they are minor or trivial. In fact, for some people, the civil penalties of a PFA order can seem more onerous than the criminal sanctions for violating the order.
Civil Penalties from a PFA Order in Pennsylvania
The civil penalties that you suffer from having a PFA filed against you span across a broad spectrum, and can impact who you can interact with, child custody, and even your rights under the Second Amendment.
The possible civil penalties are listed in 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6108, and include the following.
All Contact With Plaintiff is Prohibited
One of the most common aspects of a PFA order is that it prohibits you from contacting the plaintiff – the person who obtained the PFA – in any way, shape, or form. This goes beyond just avoiding their physical presence: You also will be prohibited from calling them on the phone, sending them a text or email, or even showing up at their place of work.
No Contact Rule Can Extend to Others
In some cases, the terms of the PFA do not just apply to the plaintiff: They also prohibit you from contacting members of the plaintiff's family or even your own children, if the plaintiff is their other parent.
Loss of Child Custody
A judge granting a PFA to the plaintiff can also award the plaintiff temporary custody of your shared children if the judge thinks that you might harm them or the plaintiff or if the judge thinks that the children have been abused.
The terms of the PFA against you might also require you to relinquish your guns, ammunition, or other weapons on a temporary basis. This can be especially problematic if your job requires you to be armed.
Changes to Your Living Situation
Because the PFA typically prohibits you from having any contact whatsoever with the plaintiff, you may have to make temporary living arrangements if you and the plaintiff share a house or an apartment. This can be one of the most immediately inconvenient aspects of having a PFA filed against you: If you cannot stay with a friend or one of your family members, then the costs of a hotel for a long stay could strain your finances while the PFA resolves itself in court.
Philadelphia PFA Defense Attorney
Having a skilled attorney at your side from the start can make a huge difference in the outcome and how quickly the PFA gets resolved. Call Joseph D. Lento, Philadelphia's premier PFA defense attorney, at (215) 535-5353 or contact the Lento Law Firm.