Understanding a PFA – Protection From Abuse

Understanding a PFA – Protection From Abuse

By F. Clay Merris, Esq.

Orders for Protection from Abuse (PFAs) are increasingly common in Pennsylvania.  Contrary to what some may believe, actual physical abuse need not be proven in order to obtain a PFA.  There are a number of grounds upon which a PFA can be based, including threats.  PFAs are powerful tools that can be used to protect those who have been abused or fear abuse based upon threats made against them.  Once a PFA is in effect, it is important to understand the number of ways that it can be violated.

First, there does not need to be actual abuse in order for a violation to occur.  PFAs are designed, in most cases, to prohibit any contact whatsoever – not just abusive or threatening contact.

Second, the activity leading to an allegation of violation need not be substantial in nature.  I have seen numerous cases where someone was charged with a violation simply by sending a text message or responding to a text message that, if not for the PFA, would not be problematic.  I have actually had multiple instances of an individual being charged with violation of the PFA for sending a text message that said “I love you.”  Obviously these words are not threatening in and of themselves.  When a court has granted a PFA though, they expect even this kind of contact to cease entirely.  Some PFAs do allow certain contact with the most common situation being one wherein the two parties have children together.  Oftentimes a judge in this situation will allow contact between the parties so long as the contact is concerning the children and is non-harassing in nature.  Those constrained by this type of PFA must be very careful not to take part in any contact with the protected individual which does not directly concern the children.

If one of these infractions occur, the violator will be charged with Indirect Criminal Contempt.  This designation is because the violator is alleged to be in contempt of the judge’s order (the PFA itself) not to contact the protected party.  Depending on the nature of the allegations, the violator may also be charged with a crime.

If you are involved in a situation regarding a PFA and there is a violation alleged, it is important that you contact Scaringi Law, 717 775 7195, to review your rights.

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