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Legal Information: Pennsylvania

Restraining Orders

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Laws current as of December 15, 2023

What is the legal definition of sexual violence or intimidation in Pennsylvania?

For the purpose of getting a protection from sexual violence or intimidation order, the abuser must have committed one of two crimes against you: “sexual violence” or “intimidation” (although the abuser does not have to be arrested/reported to the police).

Sexual violence is defined as actions that fall under any of these crimes:

  • sexual offenses (listed under Title 18, Chapter 31 of the law - we list many here);
  • endangering the welfare of children if the offense involved sexual contact with the children;
  • corruption of minors; 
  • sexual abuse of children; 
  • unlawful contact with a minor; or  
  • sexual exploitation of children.1

Intimidation is when an abuser, who is 18 or older, commits either of these crimes against you if you are under the age of 18:

1 42 Pa.C.S. § 62A03

What types of protection from sexual violence or intimidation orders are available? How long do they last?

There are three types of sexual violence or intimidation protection orders available in Pennsylvania:

  • emergency orders;
  • ex parte temporary orders; and
  • extended orders.

A hearing officer can grant you an emergency order if the judge is unavailable, and the hearing officer believes that the emergency order is necessary to protect you because you are in immediate and present danger by the abuser or there is good cause to grant the order. The emergency order expires at the end of the next business day that the judge is available.3

You can get an ex parte temporary order if you are the victim of sexual violence or intimidation, and the order is necessary to protect you from immediate and present danger by the abuser. This order will remain in effect until it is modified or terminated after there has been notice to the abuser and the opportunity for a hearing.1 A hearing must be held within ten days after you file for your ex parte temporary order.2

A judge can grant an extended order after the abuser receives notice and has the opportunity to attend a hearing. At the hearing, the judge must find that you are a victim of sexual violence or intimidation and that you are still at risk of harm by the abuser. The judge can grant an extended order for a set period of time not longer than three years. A judge can also grant an unlimited number of extensions.4

1 42 Pa.C.S. § 62A06(b)
2 42 Pa.C.S. § 62A06(a)
3 42 Pa.C.S. § 62A09(a),(b)
4 42 Pa.C.S. § 62A07(d)

What protections can I get in a protection from sexual violence or intimidation order?

After a hearing, if the judge grants you a protection from sexual violence or intimidation order, the judge can order that the abuser not:

  • enter your home;
  • enter your place of work, business, or school; and
  • have any contact with you (or other specific protected parties) either directly or through a third person.1

The judge can also order anything else that s/he believes is necessary to protect you.1

1 42 Pa.C.S. § 62A07(b)

If the abuser lives in a different state, can I still get an order against him/her?

When you and the abuser live in different states, the judge may not have “personal jurisdiction” (power) over an out-of-state abuser. This means that the court may not be able to grant an order against him/her.

There are a few ways that a court can have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state abuser:

  1. The abuser has a substantial connection to your state. Perhaps the abuser regularly travels to your state to visit you, for business, to see extended family, or the abuser lived in your state and recently fled.
  2. One of the acts of abuse “happened” in your state. Perhaps the abuser sends you threatening texts or harassing phone calls from another state but you read the messages or answer the calls while you are in your state. The judge could decide that the abuse “happened” to you while you were in your state. It may also be possible that the abuser was in your state when s/he abused you s/he but has since left the state.
  3. If you file your petition and the abuser gets served with the court petition while s/he is in your state, this is another way for the court to get jurisdiction.

However, even if none of the above apply to your situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get an order. If you file, you may be granted an order on consent or the judge may find other circumstances that allow the order to be granted.

You can read more about personal jurisdiction in our Court System Basics - Personal Jurisdiction section.

Note: If the judge in your state refuses to issue an order, you can file for an order in the courthouse in the state where the abuser lives. However, remember that you will likely need to file the petition in person and attend various court dates, which could be difficult if the abuser’s state is far away.