Staying Safe & Legally Protected
Generally, a person who claims they were abused by a family member or current or former intimate partner can receive a restraining order (abuse orders) from the Court of Common Pleas. Those restraining orders are issued under the Protection from Abuse Act and are frequently referred to as “PFAs.” But sometimes an alleged victim asks for an order at night or on the weekend. Fortunately, there is a procedure in Pennsylvania that allows Magisterial District Courts (MDJs) to issue emergency orders when the Court of Common Pleas is not available. This article will help you understand the qualifications and process for emergency protection from abuse orders in a general way. For detailed legal help in your specific case, contact our team of experts.
What Qualifies as Abuse?
Under the Protection from Abuse Act, abuse is a defined term. While other types of abuse exist and cause harm, the courts of Pennsylvania adhere to the statutory definition.
The Protection from Abuse Act defines abuse as a single occurrence of any of the following between “family or household members, sexual or intimate partners [,] or persona who share biological parenthood”:
– “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”;
– “[p]lacing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury”;
– physically or sexually abusing minor children; or
– “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.”
23 Pa. C.S. § 6102(a).
When Can a Magisterial District Court Issue a PFA?
An MDJ can issue an emergency order for protection from abuse when the Court of Common Pleas is unavailable. Generally, the Court of Common Pleas is unavailable from close of business each day to the resumption of business the next morning and from the end of the business week until the beginning of the next. If a county has fewer than four judges, the Court of Common Pleas may deem itself unavailable during the business day if the judges are outside the county, are ill, or are on vacation.
In the event the Court of Common Pleas is unavailable, an MDJ may issue an emergency order that expires the next day the Court of Common Pleas is available. The MDJ will send its order to the Court of Common Pleas for that court to address on its next business day.
Selecting Legal Representation
If you or a loved one needs representation in family law, protection from abuse, divorce, or custody case, you/they need experienced and diligent representation. Call 717.299.7342 to schedule a consultation with Attorneys Christopher C. Straub, Sandra Edwards Gray, Jeffrey C. Murse, or Daniel C. Bardo today.