Pennsylvania State Police recently arrested a local man for violating a protection from abuse order (PFA). According to Chadds Ford Live, John Connelly, 25, of West Chester, was arrested for a violation alleged to have occurred over a month earlier.
The case could be a cautionary tale for all those out there held under active restraining and no-contact orders. Though you may not have been charged with a criminal offense, a civil court order is not to be taken lightly. Many make the mistake of assuming the terms of their court order is discretionary or optional when the truth is far from this.
What are PFAs?
Though unfamiliar to the layman, PFAs are commonly used in cases of alleged domestic violence and can come with a host of court-ordered protections. As part of a protection order, a judge can order the defendant's eviction from a shared residence and require them to keep a distance from their alleged victim, their home, and their work. At the same time, the judge can make decisions about any childcare arrangements or spousal support.
Under the Protection From Abuse Act, claimants or their legal guardians can file for an order against anyone they are related to, either by marriage or blood, and any current or past intimate partners. In the past, there used to be a requirement that a claimant must have lived with their alleged abuser, but this rule no longer applies.
Once granted, the order is put on the Pennsylvania State Police registry. The order can be enforced for up to three years. A judge may choose to extend this before a final order's expiration for good cause.
What Other Restrictions Are There?
Typically restrictions will be in place long before and long after a judge grants a PFA. In Pennsylvania, domestic violence is not an offense in itself but a type of charge, where one of several offenses is committed in the context of a household or intimate relationship. Pennsylvania Police can and will arrest those they suspect of a domestic violence offense without a warrant. If there are reports of violence, police will report to the scene. If and when they arrest someone for domestic violence, police can also put an emergency restraining order in place, which can effectively and immediately turn them out of their home. From this point, the alleged victim can pursue temporary no-contact orders or protective orders in the civil courts, while the police may pursue a criminal case.
What Happens If You Violate a Protective Order?
Violations of Protection From Abuse orders can come with serious criminal penalties. As with the man from West Chester, the police can secure a warrant for arrest. A judge will ultimately rule on whether the order was violated. Penalties can include six months in jail and fines up to $1000. However, the judge may also issue such other orders they may deem necessary, which can often amount to a court order with even more stringent and longer-lasting restrictions.
Do You Need Help with a Domestic Violence or PFA-Related Allegation?
The consequences of domestic violence allegations can be devastating, threatening your job, your children, and your home. Pennsylvania law enforcement takes these allegations very seriously and is eager to punish any violations of PFAs very harshly. If you face allegations of this nature, attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can offer you effective and compassionate legal representation. For more information, contact us here or call 888-535-3686.