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Legal Information: Pennsylvania

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of December 15, 2023

Can the abuser have a gun?

Once you get a protection order, there may be laws that prohibit the respondent from having a gun in his/her possession.  There are a few places where you can find this information:

  • first, read the questions on this page to see if judges in Pennsylvania have to power to remove guns as part of a temporary or final order;
  • second, go to our State Gun Laws section to read about your state’s specific gun-related laws; and
  • third you can read our Federal Gun Laws section to understand the federal laws that apply to all states.

You can read more about keeping an abuser from accessing guns on the National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center’s website

What 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.1
  • 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 Safety Planning 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 Advocates and Shelters page.

1 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6105(e)(2)

What 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.1

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 $1,000.2

For more information about contempt, including the difference between criminal contempt and civil contempt, go to our general Domestic Violence Restraining Orders page.

1 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6113(b)
2 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6114(b)

Can I extend my protection from abuse order?

You can 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:

  1. the abuser committed one or more acts of abuse while you had the final order; or
  2. the abuser behaved in other ways that indicate a continued risk of harm to the you or your child.1

Note: If when you file for an extension, the abuser is in jail and will be released within the next 90 days or the abuser was in jail and was released within the past 90 days, then you do not need to prove either of the two things above to get the order extended.2

If necessary, the order can be extended more than once. There is no limit on the number of extensions that may be granted.3

In addition, 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.4

1 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6108(e)(1)(i)
2 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6108(e)(1)(iii)
3 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6108(e)(3)
4 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6108(e)(1)(ii)

What 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.1

Pennsylvania does not require that a PFA be filed for it to be enforced. 2 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.1  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.2   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.

1 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 6104(a)-(e); 6105(h)
2 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 6104(d)(3)
2 23 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 6102; 6104(d)

If I get a protection order, will it show up in an internet search?

According to federal law, which applies to all states, territories, and tribal lands, the courts are not supposed to make available publicly on the internet any information that would be likely to reveal your identity or location. This applies to all of these documents:

  • the petition you file;
  • the protection order, restraining order, or injunction that was issued by the court; or
  • the registration of an order in a different state.1

1 18 USC § 2265(d)(3)