Seeking Protection From Family Violence And Abuse In Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania recognizes a defined category of offenses that allow proven victims of those offenses to seek a temporary or permanent restraining (no contact) order against a proven perpetrator. Depending on the alleged offenses, one of two laws will apply: the Protection from Abuse Act (PFA) or the newer Protection from Sexual Violence and Intimidation Act (PSVI).
Whether you are seeking protection under one of these laws or have been accused of violating them, it is important to work with an experienced attorney. In Greensburg, you can find the guidance you need when you contact Andrew F. Skala, Esq. As an attorney practicing both family law and criminal defense, I fully understand the nuances of both these statutes and will advocate tirelessly on your behalf.
Understanding The Protection From Abuse Act
Wondering which act applies to your situation? That depends on the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. The first step is to find out if you and the other party qualify as “family or household members.” These persons include a spouse (current or former), an intimate partner (current or former, regardless of whether you lived together), a sibling (biological or legal), a member of your extended family, a parent or child or another person with whom you have had a child.
If one of the noted categories looks familiar, the next question is whether the perpetrator has committed an act defined by the PFA Act as “abuse.” Abuse is clearly defined in the statute, but to summarize here, it includes things like inflicting serious bodily injury and physical or sexual abuse (of victims of any age). It also includes false imprisonment, making someone fear that they will be seriously harmed and following someone without proper authority.
Whether a PFA will be granted either temporarily or for up to three years depends upon the strength of the evidence presented in an attempt to show that one of the acts above occurred.
An Overview Of The Protection From Sexual Violence And Intimidation Act
Sometimes a party seeking protection from sexual abuse won’t qualify as a “family or household member” under the PFA Act. In those cases, the Pennsylvania Legislature developed the PSVI Act. The PSVI Act uses the same definition for “family or household members” as the PFA Act. However, the PSVI Act says that the party seeking protection must not be a family or household member in order to qualify.
The PSVI Act is not meant to include as many forms of conduct as the PFA Act. Rather, it is limited to instances of conduct that, if proven, are so appalling that a victim doesn’t need to have a prior relationship with the perpetrator in order to be protected.
The PSVI Act actually permits two different types of protection orders: Protection from Sexual Violence (PSV) and Protection from Sexual Intimidation (PSI).
Assuming a victim is not a family or household member of the perpetrator, they can seek a PSV order if the alleged perpetrator committed an act of “sexual violence.” Sexual violence under the PSVI Act is defined as conduct constituting a crime under any of the following provisions:
- Most sexual offenses [18 Pa.C.S. Ch. 31]
- Endangering the welfare of children, if the offense involved sexual contact with the victim [18 Pa.C.S. § 4304]
- Corruption of minors that is sexual [18 Pa.C.S. § 6301(a)(1)(ii)];
- Sexual abuse of children [18 Pa.C.S. § 6312(b)]
- Unlawful contact with a minor [18 Pa.C.S. § 6318]
- Sexual exploitation of children [18 Pa.C.S. § 6320]
Where none of the acts above has occurred, but the victim is less than 18 years of age and the perpetrator is 18 years of age or older, the victim may still seek a PSI order, if the perpetrator has performed an act of “intimidation.”
Intimidation under the PSVI Act is defined as conduct constituting a crime under either of the following provisions:
- Harassment that is sexual [18 Pa.C.S. § 2709(a)(4), (5), (6) or (7)] or
- Stalking [18 Pa.C.S. § 2709.1]
Contact My Firm For A Free Discussion Of Your Legal Options
The actions giving rise to all of the above protection orders are not tolerable in our society. However, the undeserved entrance of any of these orders can have so many dire consequences for the alleged perpetrator that it is almost impossible to list every one of them here. Whether you have been a victim of violence/abuse or have been accused of perpetrating it, you cannot afford to risk your life or reputation. Contact me today to schedule a free initial consultation. Just call 724-493-9044 or reach out online.