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Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Laws

Under Pennsylvania law, it is a crime to commit domestic violence (also called domestic abuse), which includes physical harm, attempts to cause physical harm, inflicting fear of imminent serious physical harm, and involuntary sexual relations between family and household members. It is also a crime in Pennsylvania to violate a protective order aka restraining orders. If you are facing domestic violence charges in the Philadelphia area you need the help of our Philadelphia domestic violence lawyers. They have an extremely in depth knowledge of Pennsylvania domestic violence laws.

pennsylvania domestic violence laws

Please click here to arrange a free consultation with our Pennsylvania domestic violence defense attorneys. They serve the accused in Bucks County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County and South Jersey.

Who Commits Domestic Violence?

Family and household members are typically who commits violence in the home. This can include people who:

are or were married
are or were living together
are related by blood or marriage
have children together, and
are dating or have dated or had sexual relations

Arrests for Domestic Violence

A police officer must make an arrest if the officer has probable cause (reason to believe) that a
person has committed any of the following crimes against a family or household member:
any felony
any misdemeanor that constitutes domestic abuse, or
assault and battery.
Police must also make an arrest anytime they have reason to believe that a person has violated
a protective order.

Protective Orders

A protective order (also called a restraining order) is a court order requiring one person (the defendant) to not contact and stay away from another person (the plaintiff). It is a crime in Pennsylvania to violate a protective order.

Any family or household member who is suffering from domestic abuse can file a petition for a protective order. Also, if a person arrested or charged with a crime of domestic violence is released from custody, the victim can seek a protective order. Usually, the plaintiff files a petition for a protective order and the defendant is served (given a
copy). A court hearing is held, where both the plaintiff and the defendant appear. If the court finds domestic abuse, it can issue a protective order: prohibiting the defendant from abusing or contacting the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s children ordering the defendant to vacate and stay away from any residence or workplace awarding the plaintiff temporary custody of any minor children restricting visitation with any minor children, including ordering supervised visitation or requiring the defendant to attend counseling as a condition of visitation ordering the defendant to pay temporary spousal support or child support ordering the defendant to pay restitution (reimbursement) for any costs incurred as a result of abuse, such as lost earnings, replacement costs for locks, medical expenses, or moving expenses ordering the defendant to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees, and recommending the defendant attend counseling.

Generally, a protective order will remain in effect for one year, but the plaintiff can seek an extension. A person can also file with the court any protective order issued in another state and it will be enforced in Pennsylvania.

Temporary Orders & Emergency Orders

The court may also issue an order without notice to the defendant and without the defendant
first appearing in court (known as an “ex parte” order). The court can enter any order necessary
to protect a plaintiff who has demonstrated an immediate danger of abuse. A plaintiff may even
be given the opportunity to file a complaint the following day if the court is closed or if the
plaintiff is not able to personally appear in court. The defendant must be notified immediately
after the ex parte order is issued and given an opportunity to appear in court within ten days. If
the defendant does not appear, the order automatically remains in effect. As part of a temporary
or emergency order, the court can order the defendant to surrender all firearms and firearm
licenses. The defendant may ask the court to review any order of surrender.


A person commits the crime of assault by attempting to use physical force or demonstrating an
intention to use physical force. For example, trying to hit someone is assault. Once you hit the
victim, and continue hitting, kicking or striking them, you will face more serious assault charges
and more severe legal consequences. The damage done by the attack also has a lot to do with
the type of charges you are facing as well as what legal penalties will be imposed. While assault
charges are always crimes, second and subsequent assaults against family and household
members are punished more severely. For the purpose of assault charges, the defendant and
the victim must have been family or household members within five years of the alleged offense.
Any assault committed by a defendant who knows that he or she is under a protective order is
also punished more severely.


A person commits the crime of stalking by making threats intended to place the victim in fear of
death or bodily injury, or repeatedly contacting or engaging in alarming or annoying behavior
aimed at the victim and that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress or
threats. For example, repeatedly calling or emailing someone after the person has asked you to
stop might be considered stalking.

Get In Touch With Our Philadelphia Assault Defense Lawyers

If you are charged with a crime of domestic violence or if someone seeks a protective against
you, you should contact a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney as soon as
possible. A conviction for domestic violence or a protective order can have serious, lasting
consequences. A Philadelphia, Pennsylvania domestic violence attorney can help you navigate the court system
and obtain the best possible outcome in your case.