The Consequences of Violating a Restraining Order in Pennsylvania

The Consequences of Violating a Restraining Order in Pennsylvania

If a court of law in Pennsylvania has issued a protection from abuse (PFA) order naming you and limiting your contact with another person, you may or may not choose to abide by its terms, but you face increasing difficulties if you opt to ignore it. Even if you believe that the order was issued on false testimony, or for any other erroneous reason, you are expected to abide by it.

And you can expect that the courts will very broadly construe what constitutes a violation of the order. If it’s a no-contact order, simply placing an unanswered call, sending a text message or mailing a card or note can place you in contempt of court. And the penalties for contempt can include fines, incarceration, the extension of the time period of the order, and even additional criminal charges.

Here’s what happens when there is an allegation that you have violated a court-issued PFA order:

  • Violation of a PFA gives law enforcement officers the right to arrest you without a warrant. Furthermore, if police don’t know about the PFA, but are informed about it at the time of your detention, they can verify the existence of the PFA by phone, radio or other electronic communication.
  • Upon arrest, you will be required to appear before the magistrate, who will set bail. If you cannot post bail, you will be jailed until your schedule hearing, which could be 10 days after charges are filed.
  • At the hearing, it must be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that you violated the court order. If the judge concludes that that burden has been met, you will immediately be sentenced. The judge can have you jailed for up to six months, can impose a fine of not more than $1,000, may put you on probation for six months, and can extend the PFA order.

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