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Know the Laws: Pennsylvania

UPDATED May 25, 2017

Protection from Abuse Orders (PFA)

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A protection from abuse order is a civil order that provides protection from harm by family or household members, sexual or intimate partners, or someone with whom you have a child in common.

After the hearing

back to topWhat should I do when I leave the courtroom?

Here are some things you may want to consider doing.  However, you will have to evaluate each one to see if it works for your situation. 

  • Review the order before you leave the courthouse. If something is wrong or missing, ask the clerk how to correct the order before you leave.
  • Make several copies of the order as soon as possible.
  • Keep a copy of the order with you at all times.
  • Leave copies of the order at your workplace, at your home, at the children’s school or daycare, in your car, with a sympathetic neighbor, and so on.
  • Give a copy to the security guard or person at the front desk where you live and/or work along with a picture of the abuser.
  • Give a copy of the order to anyone who is named in, and protected by, the order.
  • If the court has not given you an extra copy for your local law enforcement agency, you may want to take one of your extra copies and deliver it to them.  The prothonotary is supposed send a copy of the PFA to the police within 24 hours after it's issued.*
  • You may wish to consider changing your locks (if permitted by law) and your phone number.

Ongoing safety planning is important after receiving the order.  People can do a number of things to increase their safety during violent incidents, when preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and when they are at home, work, and school.  Many abusers obey orders of protection, but some do not.  It is important to build on the things you have already been doing to keep yourself safe.  For more information please visit the Staying Safe page.  Advocates at local domestic violence programs can assist you in designing a safety plan and can provide other forms of support.  To find help near you, visit our PA State and Local Programs page.

* 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6105(e)(2)

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back to topWhat can I do if the abuser violates the order?

If the abuser violates any part of the order, you can call the police and report the violation.  A police officer can arrest the abuser, even if the officer does not witness the abuse.  After an arrest, the officer must take all firearms, other weapons or ammunition that were used or threatened to be used during the violation of the order or during prior incidents of the abuse.*

An abuser who violates a PFA can face criminal contempt charges for the violation in addition to charges for any crime(s) s/he commits during the violation.  After a hearing, s/he can be found in contempt and placed in jail for up to six months and/or be fined between $300 and $1,000.**

* 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6113(b)
** 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6114(b)

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back to topHow do I extend my protection from abuse order?

If there was a violation of the PFA and a criminal contempt hearing is pending, your PFA will be extended until the end of the criminal hearing and possibly longer.  However, even if there is no contempt hearing pending, you can still file to extend your order by returning to the courthouse and filing for an extension of your PFA.  The judge can extend a final PFA if s/he believes that the abuser committed one or more acts of abuse while you had the final order or behaved in other ways that indicates a continued risk of harm to the you or your child. If necessary, the order can be extended more than once.  There is no limit on the number of extensions that may be granted.*

* 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6108(e)

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back to topWhat if I move and change my address?

Federal law provides what is called "full faith and credit," which means that once you have a criminal or civil protection order, it follows you wherever you go, including U.S. Territories and tribal lands.  Therefore, in Pennsylvania, the courts and police will recognize and enforce a valid protection order from another state.*

Pennsylvania does not require that a PFA be filed for it to be enforced. ** You may choose to file a certified copy of your protection order with the prothonotary in other counties in Pennsylvania (such as the county where you work or move to) as an extra precaution, but this is not mandatory.  A protection order from a Pennsylvania judge is enforceable in any county in the state, regardless of whether you've filed it in that county.*  You can ask for a certified copy of your protective order in the court where it was issued – you will not be charged a fee in Pennsylvania for certified copies.**   For more information on certifying your PFA see Do I need anything special to get my PFA enforced in another state?

Different states have different rules for enforcing out-of-state protection orders.  If you are moving outside of Pennsylvania, you can find out about that state’s policies by contacting a domestic violence program, the clerk of courts, or a prosecutor in that area.  You can also call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit (1-800-903-0111, ext. 2) for information on enforcing your order in another state.

To read more information about how moving out of Pennsylvania may affect your PFA, please see our Moving to Another State with Your Protection From Abuse Order page.

Note: For information on enforcing a military protective order (MPO) off the military installation, or enforcing a civil protection order (CPO) on a military installation, please see our Military Protective Orders page.

* 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 6104(a)-(e); 6105(h)
** 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6104(d)(3)
** 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 6102; 6104(d)

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