Indirect Criminal Contempt Charges For Violating Protection From Abuse Orders

Posted by Joseph Lento | Jun 01, 2024 | 0 Comments

A recent news article from Hornellsville, New York, concerned a 62-year-old man from Monaca, Pennsylvania, arrested and held in jail on charges of criminal contempt of court for violating a protection from abuse order (PFA) for having intentional physical contact with the plaintiff.   

Criminal contempt of court is a serious charge in any state, and contacting the plaintiff, even by honest mistake, is still a violation of a court ordered PFA. If you or a loved one are involved in a Pennsylvania Protection From Abuse proceeding, the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team can help you protect all your rights under the law. Call the offices today at 888.535.3686  or contact us

Indirect Criminal Contempt of Court in Pennsylvania 

Pennsylvania's Protection from Abuse Act is designed to protect a person who has suffered abuse from a partner or spouse. A violation of a PFA order in Pennsylvania carries a charge of “indirect criminal contempt of court”. This is not a typical criminal charge. The defendant can be arrested and placed in jail, but the charges are presented to the court judge, who issues the PFA order. The hearing is before the judge instead of through the usual criminal procedure process, which can involve plea bargaining or a trial by jury. A defendant is permitted representation by an attorney at the hearing. 

Consequences for Violations of PFA Orders 

A finding of indirect criminal contempt of court does carry serious consequences under Pennsylvania law. Under Domestic Relations Title 23 section 6114.0: 

“(b)  Trial and punishment 

(1)  A sentence for contempt under this chapter may include: 

(i)  (A)  a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $1,000 and imprisonment up to six months; or 

       (B)  a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $1,000 and supervised probation not to exceed six months; and 

(ii)  an order for other relief set forth in this chapter.” 

Other Consequences of a Violation of a PFA 

Once a violation of a PFA has been established, any previous agreements on custody and separation can now be up for reconsideration. The result could even be a complete loss of any custody for the offending party. This type of result is particularly onerous when the offending party has contacted the plaintiff by honest mistake, such as unintended contact with the plaintiff upon entering the family home for otherwise legitimate reasons like removing property. These are far-reaching consequences for what may have been a misunderstanding between family members. In such complex situations, it is important to have guidance from trained legal professionals to represent a party's interests to the full extent of the law.                                        

If you are involved in a Pennsylvania Protection From Abuse proceeding, the LLF Law Firm Family Law Team can help you preserve all your rights under the law. Call the offices today at 888.535.3686  or contact us

About the Author

Joseph Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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