Sometimes known as a restraining order, a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) is a civil court order that provides protection from harm by family or household members, intimate partners or a parent of a child you share. A PFA can have devastating consequences for the defendant, including loss of child custody, employment, education options, professional licensing and firearm rights, not to mention the damage it can do to your reputation in the community. Unfortunately these orders are sometimes filed by those seeking revenge or retribution, and are based on false allegations. If you are involved in a Protection from Abuse case, seeking the counsel of an experienced defense attorney is essential to ensure your rights are protected.
Physical abuse does not have to occur for a judge to order a temporary or emergency PFA. Attempting or threatening to cause bodily injury; sexual assault, rape, incest and other sexual offenses; false imprisonment and stalking all place the plaintiff in reasonable fear of bodily injury, and can be considered a basis for a temporary PFA. After a temporary PFA is granted by a judge, a formal hearing must be scheduled within 10 business days.
If you receive notice that a PFA has been filed against you, stay away from the plaintiff and refrain from contacting them via text, phone or in any other manner. Rules and processes vary from county to county, so it is important to contact a local criminal defense attorney who can help you understand your rights and the processes of the local court. Although a Protection from Abuse order is a civil matter, keep in mind that in many cases, a plaintiff may file criminal charges as well so having an attorney by your side is vital. To contest the PFA, you must appear at the scheduled formal hearing. Failing to show up for your formal hearing can lead to a permanent a PFA being entered by default, which is much more difficult to contest and cannot be expunged from the court record.
Contesting a PFA at Your Court Hearing
Formal court proceedings may involve witnesses, evidence, testimony, and cross-examination. A family law or divorce attorney will help you properly prepare for court by gathering evidence, speaking to witnesses and collecting any relevant information and proof such as text messages, emails and phone messages from the person seeking the PFA. Although a PFA doesn’t prohibit an alleged victim from contacting you, if they do, these communications are crucial evidence that can help you fight the order. Do not respond to any communications from the person seeking the PFA. Turn over all communications to your attorney to help them prepare for your case.
At the final PFA hearing, both the plaintiff and defendant have an opportunity to testify. Your attorney and the plaintiff’s attorney may also cross-examine the opposing party and any witnesses. The judge will then make a determination based on the testimony and evidence presented. The judge may order a final PFA for up to a period of three years.
Can You Appeal a Final PFA?
A final PFA order can be appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court within 30 days. Copies of court transcripts and other evidence may be required. Appealing a PFA determination can be difficult and complex, especially if you have not retained the services of an experienced attorney before your initial hearing.
Have you been wrongly accused of domestic violence? Carosella & Associates can help.