December 3, 2019
When You’re Charged with Violating a Restraining Order
In Pennsylvania, the court enters protection from abuse orders (PFAs) in situations dealing with domestic violence, harassment, and stalking. If one was entered against you, it doesn’t matter that you find it unfair. You must follow the guidelines as prescribed by the judge. Otherwise, you’ll need to know what to do what you’re charged with violating a restraining order.
The definition as to what constitutes domestic violence appears in 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6102. If the court entered a PFA against you, you should already know what constitutes abuse and the need for protection.
The bottom line is that judges don’t arbitrarily sign off on protection orders. The victim must provide enough evidence to suggest he or she reasonably feared bodily injury.
In addition to the PFA, you most likely went before a judge on criminal charges. As you know, the two hearings were held separate and apart. Just because you are found “not guilty” of a criminal offense doesn’t mean you can disobey a protection order.
In Pennsylvania, you may have a restraining order filed against you for stalking or harassing a stranger as well. In some cases, it could mean you placed a GPS device on someone’s car. In others, you may have decided to distribute images for the sake of embarrassing the victim.
Unfortunately, many people who violate restraining orders don’t do so with malicious intent. If you were married to someone and hoped you could make up, you run the risk of serious legal issues if you contact the victim. It may be a lesson you know now, firsthand.
Violating a Restraining Order Comes with Severe Penalties
When the court executes a protection from abuse order, it includes its expectations. The goal is to ensure the victim’s safety, and that means keeping the two of you away from one another. If you were married or living together, this may impact you greater than others.
Let’s say that you decided to return to your residence to pick up your things. You texted the victim and said you would be over at a particular time. While that might seem reasonable to you, a better approach might be to contact the local police for an escort.
When you violate the terms of a PFA, the offense turns into contempt charges under 23 Pa. Const. Stat. § 6114. You may have had the opportunity to plea bargain for your initial criminal charges. However, that’s not the case with a contempt charge. The judge decides the penalties, which could include:
- a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $1,000 and imprisonment up to six months; or
- a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $1,000 and supervised probation not to exceed six months
Additionally, the court could decide on some other relief that could affect your life adversely. Ironically, you may have been acquitted for the original criminal charge and now find yourself with a record as a result of the violation.