The Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act (“PFA”) defines “domestic abuse” as one or more of the following acts (including the attempt to commit one or more the following acts) between family or household members:
- bodily injury, rape, or incest
- putting a protected person in reasonable fear of immediate, serious bodily injury
- false imprisonment
- physical or sexual abuse of a child, and
other actions that repeatedly put a protected person in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury, such as stalking or harassment.
Pennsylvania courts can issue “protection from abuse orders” (PFAs) when there has been threatened or actual abuse by a family member or household member as defined above. If the abuse is committed by an individual who was never been a household member as defined above, a stalking protection order can be issued.
A PFA order prevents the abuser from contacting the victim and requires the abuser to stay away from the victim’s home, school, and/or place of employment. It requires the abuser to relinquish all firearms to a local police department. Abusers that violate PFA orders can be arrested.
How to Defend Against False Accusations of Domestic Violence
False allegations of domestic violence can affect every part of a person’s life. Depending on any given individual’s personal circumstances, a domestic violence defendant can watch their job security crumble and relationships that they held dear vanish at a moment’s notice. The general population’s view of those charged with domestic abuse against a girlfriend, spouse, child, or anyone else can be a destructive force and a violation of one’s rights when the person charged with domestic violence is not guilty of their alleged crimes.
Unfortunately, even proof of innocence can fail to repair one’s life and reputation once a person has been accused of these types of crimes.
That said, there are several things for which someone who has been falsely accused of domestic violence can do to help ensure their rights are protected and freedoms secured. If your relationship begins to turn sour and your accuser begins to act in a way that leads you to believe that they will file false domestic abuse charges against you, there are some actions you can take to help limit other dangerous actions they can take to sabotage you.
- Protect your valuables. Do not just hope that they “would never do that”. In my experience, those who have false accusations brought against them for committing domestic violence rarely expect their accuser to actually go through with pressing charges, but they do. If your accuser steals your driver’s license, birth certificate, car titles, or money from you and then files charges against you, you may spend all of your time trying to get your stuff back rather than taking care of what needs to be done to ensure your freedom. A grave mistake that could cost you more than you thought possible.
- Notify family members about your concerns. Unfortunately, family members may turn against you after news surfaces that you have been charged with committing domestic violence. If your accuser claims that you hurt them and/or your children, your closest family members may mistakenly ban you from their lives. If you keep them informed of your accuser’s erratic and troublesome behaviors, as well as your fears of what they may do, you may be able to prepare your family for the allegations and have them be more inclined to believe your side of the story.
- Change all of your login information. Bank accounts, computers, laptops, vehicle entrance, hard drives, cell phones, and anything else you can think of that requires your password should be changed as soon as possible. There have been instances in which accusers send messages from the defendant’s cell phone and then later accuses them of sending threatening messages. Don’t let this or anything similar happen to you by securing anything and everything that you can.
- If you are the abused, gather evidence. There are instances where the person who is accused of committing domestic abuse is actually the victim of physical and emotional abuse. If this is the case, gather as much evidence as you can without putting yourself in danger. If you feel that you are in any danger or are a victim of abuse now, contact your local abuse services to get immediate help.