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In the Philadelphia courts, an order of protection is commonly referred to as a protection from abuse (PFA) order. These orders are entered in domestic relations cases, and they’re initially entered for 10 days. If extended, they can last for up to three years. They provide broad relief like ordering one person not to come near an allegedly abused person or threaten, harass, stalk intimidate or otherwise interfere with his or her civil liberties. These orders can provide that any children of he parties be protected too.
Indirect Criminal Contempt
If you have been served with a PFA, you must strictly comply with each and every term and condition of it. Failure to do so can cause you to be charged with indirect criminal contempt of court, and the penalties can be harsh. You can be sentenced to six months of jail or six months of probation and a fine of between $300 and $1,000.
Pennsylvania doesn’t have a criminal statute that is directed at violating a PFA. If allegations of a violation are made, you won’t have the right to a jury trial. The allegations against you need not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt either. A petition to have you held in contempt of court will be filed, and a hearing date will be set. A judge will hear all of the evidence and decide whether you should be held in contempt. You’re going to want an experienced and effective PFA defense attorney representing you at that hearing.
The Collateral Consequences
You may have a paternity or divorce case pending, or you might be facing criminal charges for alleged abuse. If you have been found to have violated your PFA, that finding can be used against you in other cases. In a criminal case, prosecutors might use your violation in support for asking for a jail term. In a civil paternity or divorce case, the finding can be used against you in issues of custody and visitation.
Don’t Get Set Up
Should you encounter the person who has the PFA order in place against you by accident, don’t speak to that individual. Leave wherever you’re at immediately. It’s not unusual for a person who is protected by a PFA to try to set the other person up and lure him or her into prohibited circumstances or contact. If that protected person directly or indirectly contacts you while a PFA is in effect, cut that contact off, and notify your attorney accordingly. Judges take a dim view on that type of behavior.
If you have been charged with violating a PFA, don’t give any type of a statement. It’s highly likely that it will be used against you in the future. Refrain from any contact whatsoever with the alleged victim or other protected family members. Then, exercise your right to an attorney, and call our offices to arrange for a consultation and review of the allegations against you. Whether you wish to contest the issuance of a PFA, or you are accused of violating one, we’ve been able to help many people in the same position that you are in.