Protection From Abuse

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What is a PFA?

A Protection From Abuse Order, or “PFA”, is what is commonly referred to as a restraining order. A PFA is a civil order signed by a judge which prevents an abuser from contacting the victim and/or the children in any way.

Who can get a PFA?

Any victim of domestic violence can obtain a PFA. Section 6102 of Pennsylvania’s Protection From Abuse Act defines abuse as:

The occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood:

(1) Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or incest with or without a deadly weapon.

(2) Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury.

(3) The infliction of false imprisonment pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 2903 (relating to false imprisonment).

(4) Physically or sexually abusing minor children, including such terms as defined in Chapter 63 (relating to child protective services).

(5) Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.

What is the PFA process?

In Pennsylvania, there are different types of PFA’s someone can obtain depending on whether a judge determines they need legal protection.

Emergency Order:
If someone is in need of immediate protection when the courts are closed, they can call the local police department or 911. They will have the opportunity to speak to the local magisterial judge. If the judge thinks he or she is in immediate danger, they will be given an emergency PFA. This will last until the next business day. If they do not go to court on the next business day to apply for an ex parte temporary PFA, the emergency order will expire. The alleged abuser will not have an opportunity to defend an emergency PFA request.

Ex parte temporary PFA:
An ex parte temporary PFA is granted when a judge finds a person or their minor children are in danger of further domestic abuse and need immediate protection. Similar to an emergency PFA, a judge will make his or her decision to grant the PFA based only on the information provided by the victim. The alleged abuser will not have an opportunity to be heard in court. If the PFA is granted, the temporary order will last until the subsequent court hearing for a final PFA. Here, the abuser will be given the opportunity to testify and present evidence in his or her defense. A hearing is usually scheduled within 10 business days. A final PFA, if granted, can last up to 3 years and can be extended in certain situations.

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