Grounds for a Restraining Order
In Pennsylvania, probation orders are termed Protection from Abuse orders (PFA) and are usually ordered due to rape, abuse, sexual assault, false imprisonment, child abuse, stalking, or threatening.
Types of Restraining Orders
There are three kinds of protection orders issued in Pennsylvania:
- Emergency orders are issued when the court is closed and last only until the court is open again. Emergency orders expire if the victim doesn’t go back to court the first day it’s open to apply for an ex parte temporary PFA or final PFA.
- Ex parte temporary PFAs are provided based on just the victim’s side of the story. These orders are temporary and generally issued when a minor is at risk of danger.
- Final PFAs are granted after the judge has had the opportunity to hear both sides of the story. Final PFAs can last three years and may be subject to extension.
What Can Be Included in a Restraining Order?
If you’ve been issued a restraining order, it’s important that you understand the stipulations outlined in the order. Common stipulations in Pennsylvania include:
- Vacate the home if you and the victim are both residing there, or provide the victim with housing if you’re permitted to stay in the home
- Discontinue contact immediately, which may include leaving any public place if the victim arrives
- Financially support the victim and/or pay for losses caused by the abuse such as attorney fees
- Turn in weapons and ammunition in your possession
- Forfeit custody of your children
The victim can make requests during the process which can add stipulations to your restraining order, so it’s important to read your order in its entirety and contact an attorney if you have questions or concerns about the terms listed.
What Should I Do If I’ve Been Issued a Restraining Order?
First and most importantly, do not make contact with the victim. Review the terms of the restraining order and ensure you comply to each stipulation whether you agree with it or it seems feasible or not. Second, hire a defense attorney. An attorney can serve several purposes: they can review the restraining order and provide clarification and guidance; they can help you build a case to defend yourself; and they can assist you in minimizing the impact the restraining order has on your personal and professional life.
When you meet with a defense attorney, you should tell them as much as you possibly can about the events leading up to the restraining order and your experiences and actions since the order was issued.
What Happens If I Violate the Restraining Order?
Violation of a restraining order is a serious charge carrying up to $1000 in fines and 6 months in jail in Pennsylvania. Additionally, violating an emergency or temporary restraining order makes it more difficult to defend yourself against the final PFA. Jail time can significantly impact your life, causing job loss, loss of income, and difficulty finding employment when you’re released. If you’ve violated a restraining order or been charged with violating a restraining order, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
How Do I Select an Attorney?
When choosing an attorney, consider the following:
- Are they located in Pennsylvania? Law varies from state to state, and your attorney must be licensed in Pennsylvania in order to defend you there.
- Do they believe that those charged with crimes deserve respectful, thoughtful, and dedicated defense at all times?
- Have they defended individuals charged with violation of a probation order before?
Some defense attorneys approach each case with a goal of lessening the sentence while others approach each case with the goal of getting the charges dismissed completely. Which attorney would you rather hire?
Ask the right questions when you meet with a potential defense attorney the first time to gain an understanding of their opinion on your case and the approach they would take. Do they believe there’s adequate evidence for a charge and what would their next steps be? Interview a least two attorneys before make a selection to ensure you have the greatest chances of having the charges dismissed or receiving the least serious sentence possible.
If you’ve been charged with violation of a protection order, contact the Pittsburgh law office of DeLuca, Ricciuti, & Konieczka today.