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Abuse Protection

What Is Abuse?

Under the Protection From Abuse Act of 1976, abuse is defined as any of the following:
1. Attempting to, ( intentionally or recklessly), causing bodily injury, rape, spousal sexual assault, or involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with or without a deadly weapon;
2. Placing another, by physical threat, in fear of serious bodily injury;
3. False imprisonment, as defined under the crimes code; and or
4. Physically or sexually abusing minor children.
The Act does not cover emotional or mental abuse.

How and Where Can I File for Protection Order?

Legal papers can be filed with the Court of Common Pleas at your county courthouse. A lawyer is not needed to file papers asking for protection. Simple forms in English and Spanish are available and a clerk working for the court will assist you with filing the papers.

How Do I Receive a Protection Order After Filing?

After filing the necessary court forms, you may go before a judge and ask the court for a temporary protection order. If the judge agrees that you have been the victim of abuse, he/she will give you a court order, which states that the abuser must not hurt you again and may order the abuser to stay away from you and your home. The order will also state that, if you are abused again by the same person, that person may be sent to jail or be fined. Once you have obtained a temporary protection order, the police can arrest the abuser if the terms of the court order are broken.

How is the Abuser Notified of the Court Order?

The abuser must be given a copy of the protection order. If it is too dangerous for the victim or a family member to deliver the court order, the court can order a law enforcement official to serve the papers.

What Help or Protection Will I Receive?

The court may order the abuser:
1. to stop abusing you and/or your children;
2. to stay away from the house or apartment where you live, even if that is also the abuser’s home;
3. to stay away from your school or where you work;
4. to refrain from harassing you or your relatives;
5. give any weapons to the sheriff if they were used or were threatened to be used during the abuse;
6. to pay you for losses resulting from the abuse. These could include medical, dental, relocation, attorney and counseling costs, as well as loss of earnings or support. Any order entered by the court can be made for a period of up to one year. The court can also award you temporary custody of your children and may grant you temporary support for yourself and/or the children of the abuser.

What Help is Available at Night or on Weekends?

In case of an emergency or if you’ve been assaulted, contact your local police department. If you need to file for a protection order and the courthouse is closed or a judge is not available, papers may be filed before a district justice, or in Philadelphia, before a Municipal Court Judge. If the district justice believes it is necessary to protect someone from abuse, he/she may award a temporary protection order. The district justice will then tell you how to get a final protection order.

Can I be Protected in Another County?

When an abused person asks for protection in another county in Pennsylvania in addition to the one in which the order was entered, the courts and police must cooperate. If you want protection in another county, such as where you work or visit relatives, you must take a certified order of the court of the original county to the civil court clerk, or prothonotary, in the second county. The prothonotary’s office in the second county will provide you with proof that the order is registered and in effect in the second county. You must then send a copy of the registered order to the county police
registry in the second county so that the police can enforce the order. There is a cost involved in registering protection orders in a second county, unless the court excuses the payment of the fee.

What If the Abuser Violates the Order?

You should immediately call the police and report the violation. A police officer can arrest the abuser, even if he/she does not witness the abuse. After the arrest, the officer must take all weapons used or which were threatened to be used during the violation of the order or during prior incidents of the abuse. An abuser charged with the contempt of a protection order can face criminal charges for the acts committed which were in violation of the order. The court can find an abuser in contempt and punish him if he violates a protection order. A hearing must be held and an abuser found in
contempt can be placed in jail for up to six months and/or fined up to $1,000.



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