While the wheels of justice sometimes turn quite slowly, such is not the case with actions brought under Pennsylvania’s Protection from Abuse (PFA) Act. Assuming the victim of either an assault or a serious threat of an assault qualifies as a protected party because of a familial or intimate relationship with the alleged perpetrator, a temporary order can be issued the same day the PFA action is filed. A final hearing will then be scheduled within ten days.
Although the PFA Act is a Pennsylvania law, every county has a different process to get a PFA order. At the hearing, the burden is on the petitioner to show that he or she was the victim of a physical assault or was put in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury. If the court finds this burden met, a protection order lasting up to three years can be entered. Among the forms of relief that the judge may order in addition to a complete cessation of abuse are eviction from a shared residence, relinquishment of firearms, and payment of costs. In appropriate cases, temporary support may also be ordered, along with temporary provisions for child custody.
An offender who violates a PFA order can be arrested and charged with a crime called indirect criminal contempt, which can result in a variety of sanctions, including the possibility of incarceration. In the event of changed circumstances while the PFA Order is in effect, either party can petition for modification of the existing Order.
Protection from Sexual Violence of Intimidation
The Protection of Victims of Sexual Violence or Intimidation (PSVI) Act provides victims of sexual violence or intimidation an avenue for protection when the offender is not an intimate partner or family member. The definition of “sexual violence” includes criminalized sexual offense, sexual abuse of children, corruptions of minors, and unlawful contact with a minor. “Intimidation” is defined as either harassment or stalking.
Obtaining and enforcing PSVI orders involve a procedure similar to a PFA action. If after a final hearing the petitioner proves there is a continued risk of harm, the Court will issue a “no contact” order which can remain in effect for up to three years.