Restraining orders are common in cases involving domestic violence, harassment, threats, abuse, or similar situations in which someone fears for their safety. Every state has variations on what a restraining order is called, what it can and can’t do, and what happens if someone violates this type of order. Attorney R. Davis Younts, Esq. answers common questions about restraining orders and what to expect if you have been charged with violating one.

What Can a Restraining Order Do to Protect Someone?

A restraining order is a legal document in which a judge prohibits someone from doing certain things to a protected person, and sets forth legal consequences for breaching that order. It is commonly used to protect one of the parties during and after a heated divorce, or in any situation in which the filer believes his well-being and safety are jeopardized by another person.

When a restraining order is issued, it may forbid someone from talking to, calling, or contacting the protected person in any way; hitting, striking, or committing any violent or abusive act; stalking, following, or disturbing the peace of the protected party; or destroying and tampering with the protected person’s property. Some restraining orders may include the requirement for an individual to stay away from the protected person by a set distance of 50 or 100 yards, for example.

Are There Different Kinds of Restraining Orders in Pennsylvania?

Every state has a few different types of restraining orders used for different purposes. In Pennsylvania, a restraining order is called a PFA or Protection From Abuse order. According to PA courts, this type of order “protects someone who is being physically hurt, followed, threatened or sexually hurt by an intimate partner, dating partner or family member.”

The state also offers a type of restraining order called SVP or Sexual Violence Protection. P.A. Courts define this type of order as meant for “someone who is a victim of sexual violence by someone they didn’t have an intimate relationship with, like a friend, stranger, or co-worker, and is still at risk of being hurt by that person.” Last, there is another type of order called PFI or Protection From Intimidation. This is meant to prevent any person 18 or older from harassing or stalking a minor with whom they have no intimate relation. As always, these may vary from state to state, so check the laws that apply to where you live.

What is the Process for Filing a Restraining Order in Pennsylvania?

There are four main steps for filing a restraining order in Pennsylvania. First, the individual seeking protection will need to go to their local courthouse and fill out some paperwork with information about themselves and the person they are seeking protection against, as well as information about any children who may need to be included in the protection order. The filer will also need to provide an explanation of why they are seeking a protection order. This can be done at no cost.

Next, the court will schedule an informal hearing in which the judge and the filer will review the information provided in the initial paperwork. The judge will then use that information to decide whether a temporary restraining order will be granted or denied. If a temporary order is granted, the defendant will be served papers by law enforcement and will be prohibited from having contact with the filer. The final step is to attend a final hearing in which the judge will decide whether to issue a final protective order that can last up to three years. This is typically done within 10 business days of the temporary order hearing.

What Are the Penalties for Violating a Restraining Order?

In Pennsylvania, there are significant consequences for violating a restraining order, including fines and jail time. If you have been served with a restraining order, it is extremely important to read it carefully and understand what it prohibits you from doing. Some restraining orders not only require you to stop contacting or being physically near someone, but they may also keep you from carrying or obtaining a firearm and force you out of your home, workplace, or school.

Penalties for violating a restraining order vary by state. In Pennsylvania, you are subject to up to six months in jail on a contempt of court charge as well as a hefty fine of up to $1000. A person sent to jail for contempt of court will also find themselves having a criminal record that will affect many areas of their life, including the ability to have a clean background check for employment and housing purposes. If you have been served with a temporary or permanent protection order, or are being accused of violating a PFA, it is in your best interest to contact a restraining orders lawyer that can better advise you on the best course of action.

Attorney R. Davis Younts, Esq. has assisted many clients that found themselves on the receiving end of a restraining order or dealing with sometimes false accusations of violating a PFA. Getting the help of an attorney with an extensive background in defending those accused of domestic violence or dealing with the consequences of receiving a protection order is essential if you are looking to maximize the chances of a positive outcome. Contact the office of R. Davis Younts, Esq., for a free in-depth case evaluation today.