If you are reading this, it probably means that the local Sheriff’s office just served you with a bunch of paperwork called a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA). A PFA is one of the most misused events in the court system.
This is stunning as you read through it. You read the allegations. One-sided exaggerations and false statements abound. You can’t believe this.
You can’t go home. You can’t see your kids. Moreover, you can’t get your things.
This is scary. Not sure what the next steps are and wondering what is going to happen to you now that you don’t have anywhere to go is perfectly normal.
Now you probably have a lot of questions:
- Will my job know about this PFA?
- Getting a Job with a Violent Crime Conviction
- When do I get to tell my side of what happened?
- What about my injuries?
- It wasn’t an Assault! It Was Self Defense!
- How an Assault Charge can Ruin your Life
How can a court issue a PFA?
The initial order is temporary. The court issues it based on a petition filed by the complaining party. The person who is the subject of the PFA is not present nor allowed to present their side of the story before the temporary PFA is issued. At the time the court issues a temporary PFA, the court will issue a hearing date for a final hearing. The hearing usually takes place within 10 days of the temporary order. The court can continue the hearing date. The temporary order is fully in effect until the date of the final hearing. At the final hearing, you can have attorney represent you. But the court will not assign you an attorney. The complaining party also has the right to have an attorney. There are two possible outcomes:
- The parties agree on the terms of the order regarding what the conditions. The court will issue the final order without a full-blown hearing; or
- An adversarial hearing will happen. Witnesses have to testify. All are subject to cross-examination. The judge will issue findings and make an order.
Does a PFA mean I’m found guilty of a criminal charge?
No. If a court issues a PFA against you, it does not mean you cannot defend any underlying criminal charge that goes with it. You are not automatically guilty.
What is the next step after a temporary PFA?
If you were served with a temporary PFA, it is exactly that– temporary. It is not a final order. You cannot appeal it. But you can fight against the final PFA. The final PFA goes into various databases that can be searched by law enforcement all over the US. The Pennsylvania State Police maintain a PFA Statewide Registry. It is part of the Commonwealth Law Enforcement Assistance Network/National Crime Information Center (CLEAN/NCIC). It holds all valid emergency, temporary, and final court orders of protection or court-approved consent agreements.
What sorts of things can a PFA stop me from doing?
With a temporary Protection from Abuse order or a final PFA, the court can:
- evict you from the house;
- establish custody, partial custody, and visitation rights without a hearing;
- stop you from acquiring or possessing any firearms for the duration of the PFA (even if there was no gun in use in the underlying claimed abuse);
- order you to:
- pay the court costs;
- pay for any alleged financial losses to the complaining witness, including medical and moving expenses;
- surrender all weapons, ammunition and all firearms;
- stop the abuse to stop;
- not “stalk” the complaining witness;
- stop harassing the complaining person or their children;
- surrender your License to Carry a Firearm;
- stay away from:
- the complaining person,
- that person’s residence,
- the place of employment of the complaining person, or
- that person’s school;
- any and all other related things necessary in the court’s view that are necessary or wanted
How long can a final PFA order last?
The final order of protection can last up to 3 years. The Judge can extend it if there is more allegations that warrant it.
A PFA may at first glance seem like a minor inconvenience but there are some major ramifications that come along with a PFA. Not only are you out of your house with no belongings, but you can’t see your kids and it seems like there is nothing you can do about it. On top of that, when a PFA is issued, your employer may be notified as well. There is nothing worse than getting your messy personal life mixed up with work.
Being the subject of a Protection from Abuse order also strips you of some of your constitutional rights. If you are the subject of an active PFA, even if it is only temporary in nature, you are prohibited both under Pennsylvania and Federal Law from purchasing, owning, transferring or possessing firearms. That means if you are a gun owner, you have to relinquish the guns that you currently have. Until the PFA is gone, you can’t get them back.
Being subjected to a PFA is a trying time. You are suffering from discord in your relationship and now you have the burden of dealing with this PFA through the court system as well. It’s incredibly important that you get a knowledgeable, experienced and skilled attorney on your side to help you fight this battle. You don’t have to go it alone. Call (717) 657-3900 today. We will fight for you.
Additional recommended reading:
- Lean more about The McShane Firm
- Contact us
- Free Guide on Criminal Law cases
- Domestic Violence Cases Rise During Stay at Home Orders
- Traveling with a Violent Crime Conviction
- Self Defense in Pennsylvania
- Aggravated Assault Laws in Pennsylvania
- Simple Assault Laws in Pennsylvania
- Chapter 61-Protection of Abuse
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