Pennsylvania’s Protection From Abuse (PFA) Law lists five definitions of “abuse”:
The first definition of “abuse” involves physical or sexual violence. The law states: “Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or incest with or without a deadly weapon.” These are the types of conduct people most commonly associate with domestic violence.
Many people are surprised to learn that the second definition of “abuse” involves mere threats. The law states: “Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury.” Thus, an angry email or text threatening harm or death may be sufficient to grant a PFA order.
The third definition of “abuse” refers to false imprisonment. The law states: “A person commits an offense if he knowingly restrains another unlawfully so as to interfere substantially with his liberty.” Thus, for example, blocking someone from leaving a residence could result in a PFA against you.
The fourth definition of “abuse” specifically involves children. The law states: “Physically or sexually abusing minor children.” The PFA law then refers to statutes involving Child Protective Services.
The fifth definition of “abuse” refers to stalking. The law states: “Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.”
As you can see, Pennsylvania’s PFA law is very broad. Judges have wide discretion in determining whether a PFA is warranted.
To speak with an experienced PFA attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.