When a person is a victim of domestic violence, he or she may be able to protect themselves with a protective order. The protective order, also known as a restraining order, limits the interaction between people, which is seen as an essential way to keep victims safe. A judge also could impose other restrictions if he or she determines it necessary.
The intent of the protective order is defined for Pennsylvania in 18 Pa.C.S §4954, stating that any court with criminal jurisdiction may issue protective orders with provisions such as:
- Defendant may not violate any provision of stalking or harassment
- Defendant must maintain a prescribed geographic distance from any specified witness or victim
- Defendant must have no communication whatsoever with the specified person unless it is through an attorney
A temporary order with these restrictions could be issued if a judge believes the allege victim is in immediate danger. However, other steps must be taken for an extended order to be put in place. Each side has the opportunity to plead its case at the protective order hearing.
After a person files a petition for a protective order, a hearing will be scheduled within seven to 10 days. The procedure for the hearing is formal and often is like a regular trial. During the hearing each side — the alleged victim and the accused — can present evidence, witnesses and testimonies before the judge.
This hearing is considered vital because it is when each person essentially can present their side of the story. In these hearings, the burden of proof is lighter than in a criminal trial. The alleged victim only has to prove need for a protection by a preponderance of evidence instead of beyond a reasonable doubt.
Once the evidence is heard, the judge then will decide if he or she thinks the protective order is necessary. A judge could grant a 60 to 90 day continuance instead of a protective order if the concerns are nonviolent. However, a protection from abuse order could have steep requirements.
If a protection from abuse order is placed against you, you could be prevented from seeing your children, siblings or other family members, depending on who was involved in the alleged incident. This could have a serious impact on cases in the future, including custody cases or even child abuse cases.
Defending yourself against a protective order is important because although it seems minor, the restraining order could have a serious affect on your life. Domestic violence cases and protective orders carry a stigma and could make a person appear as dangerous, even if that is not the case. Additionally, violating the order could mean criminal consequences.
If a person is convicted for violating a protection from abuse order he or she could face a fine of between $300 and $1,000, in addition to imprisonment or supervised probation. The court also could extend the protective order for an additional term. Any firearms or other weapons that were used or threatened to be used also could be confiscated.
If a protective order from abuse has been filed against you, it is important you defend yourself. You have the right to an attorney for a hearing, and a skilled Pennsylvania attorney can help protect your future. Call (267) 388-3476 to discuss you case with Michael Skinner.