A Violator Goes to Prison
A law enforcement representative showing up at your front door, or at your workplace, is rarely good news. If that officer hands you a piece of paper called a PFA, that is definitely bad news—and what you do in the next ten days could change your whole life. You could lose your job, your home, your reputation, your professional license, or even the right to see your children.
Even if you receive the PFA from someone not in law enforcement, it has the full force of law behind it, and you should take it just as seriously.
What Exactly Is a PFA?
A PFA is a Protection from Abuse order, also known as a restraining order. It is a court order to immediately cease and desist any and all contact with the person(s) named in the PFA.
In Pennsylvania, a PFA is a civil matter—but any violation of the PFA is automatically a crime for which you could be arrested and jailed.
Conviction of a first violation is, at minimum, a first-degree misdemeanor, but depending on the nature of the violation, it could be escalated to a felony. Subsequent violations will be charged as felonies.
Burkholder Sentenced to 6 to 12 Years
In 2020, Troy Burkholder, 53, “repeatedly communicated with a victim causing fear of bodily injury and distress on two occasions. Burkholder had four prior convictions for violations of a PFA involving the same victim,” according to an October 13, 2021, press release from the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.
Burkholder pleaded guilty. The two counts of violating a PFA each carried a sentence of three to six years that could be time served simultaneously. However, because of his prior convictions for PFA violations, Judge Merrill Spahn ordered the two terms to be served consecutively.
Burkholder is now serving 6 to 12 years in prison.
What to Do if You Receive a PFA
Breathe. Receiving a PFA can be very upsetting, but don't give in to impulsive emotions or actions. This is no time to lose your head—or your freedom. Don't be like Burkholder.
Read the PFA carefully. Follow the order exactly. Do not call, text, write or confront your accuser. Do not ask a friend or relative to contact your accuser. Don't violate the PFA, or your next encounter with law enforcement might involve handcuffs.
You might feel angry, hurt, confused, or even falsely accused. This is normal. Channel those emotions into building your defense because, in about ten days, you will have a chance to confront your accuser and clear your name—in court.
Be Ready to Defend Yourself
By its very nature, a PFA is a one-sided accusation. It may be inaccurate, misleading, unfair, or false. Therefore, it is only in effect until the “final hearing” before a judge. You will have a chance to tell your side of the story. You may present evidence, question your accuser, and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. You have the right to have an attorney.
Time is of the essence when you receive a PFA. You have less than two weeks to prepare to contest the PFA. An experienced PFA defense attorney like Joseph D. Lento can help you make your best case when you have so much at stake. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.