What are you in prison for?
For being stupid.
Daniel Justin Miller, 47, of Williamsport, PA, is going to have a long time to regret his decision to violate the protection from abuse (PFA) order he received on December 1st. Instead of doing the smart thing and obeying the restraining order, he chose to ruin his life.
Upon being served with the PFA, Miller did everything wrong. He violated the PFA almost immediately by calling and texting the PFA plaintiff—a criminal offense. Then he went over to her house, kicked in the back door, and threatened to kill other occupants of the house. When he found the plaintiff, he beat her senseless and strangled her. He was standing over her unconscious body when the police arrested him.
Although he is innocent until proven guilty, Miller is awaiting trial without bail in the Lycoming County Prison. As of press time, he faced nine criminal charges, including attempted homicide, strangulation, aggravated assault, terrorist threats, resisting arrest, and at least five other felonies and misdemeanors.
And if his ex-girlfriend dies, more charges will be added.
Myth of the Bulletproof Restraining Order
“A P.O. [Protective Order] is just a piece of paper. It's not bulletproof,” Circuit Court Judge Marissa McDermott told victim advocates and police officers in her courtroom in Lake County, Illinois.
“Our court always warns victims to not put too much confidence in a court order, warning them that the respondent may hit the roof after being served,” McDermott said. “In some cases, the highest chance of a homicide or attack comes right after a court filing or a hearing for P.O.”
Most restraining orders are issued to prevent imminent domestic violence, McDermott said. She advises plaintiffs to have a physical plan to protect themselves in addition to the court order.
How a PFA Works
Regardless of what it's called, a protection-from-abuse order is issued on ex partetestimony from the plaintiff. In other words, the judge only hears the plaintiff's side. Sometimes, the plaintiff exaggerates or even lies.
That's why in Pennsylvania, a PFA is first issued on a temporary basis. The defendant has a right to confront the plaintiff in court and dispute the PFA before a judge. That court hearing is supposed to happen in two weeks, but the pandemic is causing some hearings to be delayed.
At the PFA hearing, the judge will either dismiss the order or issue a “final” PFA for a renewable term of up to three years.
The Smart Thing to Do
At his arrangement, Miller told the judge he was “angry.” Being angry at being served a PFA is a natural reaction, but it has never been more important to stay calm.
No matter how upset you are, cooperate with police personnel and comply completely with the instructions in the PFA. Even the slightest violation of the PFA is a criminal offense. You can be arrested, fined, and jailed. As hard as it may be, wait for your day in court. An experienced PFA defense attorney may be able to get the PFA dismissed or at least mitigated.
If you or a loved one is served with a PFA, call the attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 today.