Pennsylvania has a protective order law that is triggered in domestic violence cases. Such court orders often state, for instance, that an abusive spouse may not come within a stated distance of another person for a period of time. In Pennsylvania, protective orders (also called "restraining orders") may also be used in stalking cases.
The basic provisions of Pennsylvania's protective order laws are listed in the table below, while additional information follows. See Domestic Violence: Orders of Protection and Restraining Orders for more information.
||Domestic Relations 23 §6102, et seq.
|Activity Addressed by Order
||Enjoin contact; exclude from dwelling, school, employment, or defendant provide suitable alternate housing; regarding minors: temporary custody, visitations, support; relinquish weapons; pay reasonable losses suffered as a result of abuse
|Duration of Order
||emergency: expires at end of next business day; General: maximum 18 mos., may be extended indefinitely
|Penalty for a Violation of Order
||Indirect criminal contempt: jail maximum 6 months and/or fine minimum $100 and maximum $1,000
|Who May Apply for Order
||Adult or emancipated minor or any parent, adult household member, or guardian ad litem on behalf of minor or incompetent
|Can Fees Be Waived?
||Yes, if petitioner prevails; if not, court decides whether petitioner able to pay
|Order Transmission to Law Enforcement
||Petitioner may register order without cost or fee in any county or a copy may be sent to the Pennsylvania State Police registry. Copy to police department with proper jurisdiction and copy to county registry of protection order
|Civil Liability for Violation of Order
||Yes, civil contempt
Types of Protective Orders in Pennsylvania
Protective orders are not one-size-fits all. There are many different protective orders which prohibit different kinds of activities. There are many different reasons for obtaining a protective order, and each protective order is tailored to fit each situation.
Some protective orders prohibit contact between the petitioner (the person asking for the order) and the defendant. This is common when there has been a history of abuse from the defendant against the petitioner, so much so that it would be unsafe for the defendant to be in contact with the petitioner at all.
Exclude from Private Spaces
In certain circumstances, like when some contact is necessary, the defendant can be prohibited from visiting private places, like a home, school, or place of business. The defendant and petitioner might not get along, but may have to have some contact. Exchanging children in the case of joint custody or visitation is a common example.
Protective Orders and Minors
A protective order may also grant temporary custody rights to one parent, and order visitation and child support until a court is able to settle these issues permanently.
In cases of severe domestic violence, a defendant may be required to give up any weapons they own, in order to protect the petitioner.
Defendants may also be required to pay for losses suffered as a result of abuse.
How Long Do Protective Orders Last?
There are two main types of protective orders, temporary orders and final orders. Temporary orders only last until the courts have a chance to issue a permanent protective order. Final protective orders can last indefinitely, but must be renewed every eighteen months. Emergency protective orders only last for one day.
Penalties for Violating a Protective Order
Violating a protective order is criminal contempt, and can get a jail sentence of up to six months, and a fine up to $1,000.
Who may apply for a protective order?
Any adult can apply for a protective order, including emancipated minors, and the guardian of a minor or incompetent person.
Have Questions About Protective Orders? Get Legal Help Today
Violating an order of protection can result in harsh consequences, including jail and heavy fines. That's why it's so important that you fully understand what the protective order against you requires. If you would like to know more about protective orders, or need immediate legal assistance, consider calling a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney near you.