You may have thought that the Hamburglar had a PFA or civil restraining order against Ronald McDonald, but, in this case, the Ronald McDonald was NOT the iconic mascot for the popular fast food restaurant chain. Instead, McDonald was prohibited by a court order from having contact with his estranged wife. The estranged wife obtained the restraining order after allegedly being assaulted and threatened by her husband.
McDonald made a bad decision and violated the judge's "no contact" instructions by following his wife into a McDonald's restaurant. McDonald ultimately pleaded guilty to violating the civil restraining order, was sentenced to 86 days incarceration, and was prohibited from having any contact with his wife for the next 3 years.
Pennsylvania Protection From Abuse (PFA) Orders
In Pennsylvania, civil restraining orders fall under the Protection From Abuse (PFA) law, so the orders are generally called PFAs. PFAs often are filed along with criminal charges related to some domestic violence incident. Normal conditions of a Pennsylvania PFA order prohibit a person or even a third party from having any contact with the person that sought issuance of the order. In many situations, a violation of a PFA order is a "go directly to jail" situation as the police generally file a criminal charge of Indirect Criminal Contempt very quickly, arrest the alleged violator, and have the person arraigned before a judge. If the judge sets a monetary bail, the person is sent to prison until bail is posted or the case is resolved.
It must be emphasized that PFA orders are one-sided, meaning the person that is served with the PFA is prohibited from contacting the PFA applicant, but the applicant is permitted to contact the other party. In one State College PFA case, a woman obtained a PFA to prohibit a former boyfriend from contacting her. The woman contacted the man, had consensual sex with the man, but the woman later called the police and reported the sexual contact. While the sex was consensual and thereby lawful, the man's contact with the woman violated the no contact requirement of the PFA, and the man was prosecuted for violating the PFA.
Violations of PFAs Result in Criminal Charges
While PFAs are civil orders, a violation of a PFA results in a misdemeanor criminal charge of Indirect Criminal Contempt. A PFA order is an express statement from a judge that a person is to have no contact with another person. Judges do not like it when you do not do what they tell you to do.
In Centre County PFA cases, a person that violates a PFA order may receive a hefty fine for a very minor violation. In cases invovling slightly more severe violations or a series of minor violations, the PFA violator will almost assuredly be sent to jail.
It is critical for the prosecution attorney to prove that the alleged PFA violator intended to have the illegal contact. In an Altoona PFA violation case, I was able to convince a judge that an 8 second phone call from my client to his estranged wife was not made intentionally or with evil intent and thereby did not amount to a violation of the PFA. The client was extremely happy when the Blair County judge found the client not guilty of the Indirect Criminal Contempt charge. Because a violation of a PFA order can result in jail time, it is important that a person talks to an experienced criminal defense attorney about the case.