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New sexual crimes law allows broader reach for restraining orders

A new law that is slated to go into effect in 2015 could have significant implications for Pennsylvania residents and those convicted of sex crimes. The legislation is designed to protect victims of sexual assault by providing court-ordered protection from the alleged abuser. Interestingly, even those victims who have never reported the alleged crimes could receive this benefit under a protection-from-abuse order, which would prevent attackers from contacting their victims. In the past, Pennsylvania residents were limited in the type of restraining orders they could receive against alleged sex crimes offenders. In most cases, a restraining order could only be used if the victim had an existing relationship with the attacker. In some cases, the person was dating the alleged victim, for instance. Now, though, alleged offenders could face serious criminal consequences if they attempt to contact their victims, even if the case never went to court. The law is modeled after New Jersey’s Nicole’s Law, which allows victims to seek restraining orders against alleged suspects who have been charged or convicted. In New Jersey, the restraining order remains in effect until terminated by an order of the court and the defendant is informed about the nature of the order. Further, officers are notified about the defendant’s alleged criminal past, even if a sex crimes conviction was never obtained. The Pennsylvania law contains similar provisions. Pennsylvania attorneys may be able to help those who are unfairly targeted by these sex crimes restraining orders, which could have an effect on employment and other personal matters. This legislation could have significant implications for those who have only been accused of sex crimes, even if they were never prosecuted. These defendants could be entirely innocent. Now, their names could be included in courtroom records because of the restraining order process. Victims can start filing for these special protection orders in September, which is just months away. Source:  Lehigh Valley Live, “Sexual assault victims in Pennsylvania to get special no-contact protection under new law” 6 April 2014

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