PFAs, DMs, and Exes: How Social Media Impacts No-Contact Orders

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jul 14, 2022 | 0 Comments

When you compose a tweet, a Facebook status, or an IG story, you're communicating with your friends and followers all in one fell swoop. That's super useful for announcing your engagement, sharing a video of your new puppy, or crowdsourcing the best chiropractor in town. If you want to keep a message private, there are plenty of ways to do that in the social landscape as well—direct messages or time-sensitive missives that disappear after only a few seconds.

In some cases, however, even just a general post directed at the wider world can be considered a direct message—and an inherently threatening one, at that. When you're forbidden from contacting a particular person, you need to be extra careful about using social media sites to rant about the situation.

The PFA Forbids All Types of Contact

The purpose of a PFA is to prevent the defendant from contacting the petitioner, by any and all means. That's why these documents are sometimes referred to as “no-contact” orders. If your ex takes out a PFA against you, you may not contact them via telephone, text, mail, email, any website or app that has a chat function, or the messaging feature of a social media platform.

Moreover, you will not be allowed in the same physical space or area as your ex or anywhere they might be—namely their home, school, car, and place of employment. There are some variations as to the distance between the two of you, but it's generally in the range of 300 feet.

If you try to contact your ex or are seen within a short distance of them, you will be found in violation of the PFA, and you may be charged with contempt of court. Although a PFA order is a civil matter, the violation of one can incur criminal charges.

So What About Social Media Posts?

Those methods of contact are fairly straightforward, and using any of them to get in touch with a person, in any circumstance, carries a reasonable expectation of direct contact with that person and no one else. But what about a social media post—a tweet, a TikTok video, an Instagram caption, a Facebook post? Such communiques are meant to be seen by large numbers of people. Does a statement addressed to a larger audience constitute direct contact with someone you've been ordered to stay away from?

The answer is yes—at least in certain circumstances. There have been many incidents in which judges have ruled that tagging a protected party on Instagram, Facebook, or any other platform, is indeed a violation of a no-contact order or restraining order.

In some cases, a social media post can be considered a violation even if it doesn't tag the petitioner or even mention them by name. If you compose a tweet, status, or other piece of content that is obliquely referring to your ex, you could be in trouble. The content would have to provide enough identifying details or references to the relationship that at least some of your followers (and/or your ex's) can easily determine the subject of the posts, even if you don't name names.

How To Fight an Unfair PFA

As new social media sites and forms of electronic contact emerge and become standard ways to connect and communicate with others, the law must do its best to keep up. Whether an update or post can be considered to violate the mandate of a PFA depends on a lot of factors, not least the nature of the post and the issuing judge's interpretation. If you have been named by an ex in a no-contact order, it's best to stay off social media altogether, particularly if you and your ex have plenty of mutual followers or friends.

Instead of taking to your devices to vent, call the Lento Law Firm.  Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his experienced team can help you fight back, legally, to regain your reputation after you have been issued a PFA. Tell us about your situation, and together we can get started on your PFA case in Pennsylvania. Call 888-535-3686 today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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