Is a PFA Order a Criminal Matter?

by | Jul 6, 2022

No, a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order is not a criminal matter. However, the surrounding circumstances or a violation could involve criminal charges.

They are also different from criminal matters since they involve a Petitioner (the alleged victim) filing for a PFA Order against a Respondent (the alleged abuser) versus the Commonwealth versus a Defendant. Burden of proof standards are lower than in criminal courts as well, meaning that your accuser does not have to meet the most stringent evidentiary standards.

In This Article

Philadelphia PFA defense attorney, Brad V. Shuttleworth, Esq., shares general legal knowledge that Respondents may find helpful. He provides a legal overview of PFA orders, how they could lead to penalties in Pennsylvania, and what penalties are on the line. There is a lot at stake, meaning you may want to consider legal representation, as discussed at the end.

Overview of PFA Orders

PFA Orders are the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s version of restraining orders. However, they protect individuals from abusive family members and partners, either current or former. The rules surrounding them are outlined in the Commonwealth’s Protection From Abuse Act.

If a judge grants an Order under the Act, the Respondent may face limitations per 23 Pa.C.S. § 6105:

  1. Not engaging in abusive acts
  2. Leaving the household
  3. Losing child custody
  4. Being near the Petitioner
  5. Paying the Petitioner support
  6. Relinquishing firearms

Depending upon the type of PFA Order filed, a Respondent could face these limitations for up to 36 months. The judge overseeing the case will determine how long it lasts based on the facts and evidence.

Related Article: What Is a PFA Order in PA?

How PFA Orders Lead to Criminal Penalties

There are two ways that you could face criminal charges after getting a PFA Order in PA. First, there is the incident or acts that lead to the PFA getting filed, and second, a PFA order violation, intentional or accidental, will lead to criminal charges.

Here is a closer look at both types below:

Criminal Charge Penalties

The facts surrounding the alleged assault or abuse could lead to separate criminal charges. Related domestic violence (DV) matters are charged as felonies and misdemeanors.

Below, we have outlined general criminal sentencing statutes for Pennsylvania penalties:


Felonies are the most severe criminal classification. They also carry the highest penalties allowable in the state. Here is a general overview of what that could entail:

  • 1st-degree felony: Up to 20 years imprisonment and $25,000 in fines
  • 2nd-degree felony: Up to ten years imprisonment and $25,000 in fines
  • 3rd-degree felony: Up to seven years imprisonment and $15,000 in fines
Related Article: What is a Felony in Pennsylvania?


Misdemeanors, while not the most severe of charges, still carry stiff penalties as well. Below, we have created a quick overview of what is on the line:

  • 1st-degree misdemeanor: Up to five years imprisonment and $10,000 in fines
  • 2nd-degree misdemeanor: Up to two years imprisonment and $5,000 in fines
  • 3rd-degree misdemeanor: Up to one-year imprisonment and $2,500 in fines

No one should ever have to accept responsibility for an unproven crime. Whether you face a related felony or misdemeanor, get in touch with a PFA defense lawyer as soon as possible. We can help you through your impending hearing while simultaneously defending you from the penalties of criminal charges.

Related Article: What Is a Misdemeanor in Pennsylvania?

PFA Order Violation Penalties

A PFA Order violation is when you allegedly breached its terms and conditions. This type of violation results in criminal contempt charges, which carries the following penalties, including and up to:

  • Six months in jail
  • $1,000 in fines
  • A criminal record
  • Probation
  • Counseling
  • And more

A PFA Order seeks to limit Petitioner abuse, underscoring the importance of penalties when it is actually taking place. However, your accuser may not have good cause to receive one. You will have a chance to present evidence and a counter-argument against the Order at your hearing.

Related Article: Who Can Get a PFA Order Against Me in PA?

PFA Defense Lawyers in Pennsylvania Protect Your Rights

Being called an “abuser” leaves a lasting mark on a person, tarnishing their reputation and relationships. Knowing where to turn when things get tough is challenging. However, it is vital to understand that you do not have to allow an unfounded PFA Order to ruin your daily life.

By hiring a PFA defense lawyer at Shuttleworth Law PC, you are working with a legal team that will deliver on the following:

  • Analyze the facts of your case
  • Work with experts to prove or disprove accusations
  • Interview eyewitnesses and alleged victims
  • Attend all hearings on your behalf
  • Provide ongoing advice and counsel

If you hire a Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer at Shuttleworth Law PC to represent your case, we will defend you at your hearing while standing by your side for separate criminal charges. Our legal team will investigate the circumstances, preserve name-clearing evidence, and argue for rights on your behalf.

Related Article: How Do You Defend Against a PFA in PA?

Learn More with a Free Consultation at Shuttleworth Law PC

Brad V. Shuttleworth, Esq. has years of experience defending the accused when they get a PFA Order. Find out how Shuttleworth Law PC can help you or your loved one restore their legal rights during a Free Consultation. Schedule yours by calling (215) 774-1371 or by messaging Brad directly via our contact form.

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