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What Happens If You Violate a Protection from Abuse of Order?

A Protection from Abuse Order, or PFA, known more widely as a “restraining order,” is a protective order that is designed to protect individuals from domestic violence, including from physical injury, threats of physical harm, sexual abuse, and stalking. Such actions may be brought against an individual by an intimate partner or family member, including spouses, former spouses, household members or persons related by blood or marriage. A PFA will restrict the individual against whom the PFA was brought (Defendant) from contacting the one bringing the action (Plaintiff) and will order the Defendant to stay away from the Plaintiff, even including such particulars as prohibiting any communication of any kind between the parties (e.g. text messages or social media); specifying the minimum distance the defendant must stay away from the Plaintiff; and requiring the defendant to surrender all firearms in his possession.

While a protection from abuse action is a civil proceeding, a violation of a PFA is prosecuted as “Indirect Criminal Contempt,” and charged under Pennsylvania statute 23 Pa.C.S. section 6113 of the Pennsylvania Domestic Relations Code. It is considered as contempt of Court, as it charges the defendant with violation of a court order. It is considered “indirect” because it was done outside the presence of a judge, and therefore, the case must be tried by a prosecutor, rather than ordered directly by a judge.

Consequences for violating a PFA order could include any of the following:

  • First-degree misdemeanor charges for Indirect Criminal Contempt
  • A fine of not less than $300 nor more than $1,000 and imprisonment up to six months
  • A fine of not less than $300 nor more than $1,000 and supervised probation not to exceed six months
  • Suspension of driver’s license
  • May impact child custody matters
  • May affect immigration and citizenship applications
  • May impact occupational or professional licensure
  • Adverse implications on applications for employment
  • Negative impact on personal and professional reputation

Our attorneys are prepared to consult with you about your legal issue, regarding a PFA or ICC charges. Please contact our office 717-836-0471 to schedule a consultation to review the specific details of your case.