Yes, although it depends on what kind of background check. PFA orders are not criminal convictions. PFA orders do not show up in a criminal history background check. If an employer, school, licensing board, creditor, or other person interested in your good character searches criminal history databases, the lookup should not show a PFA order against you. But Pennsylvania PFA orders do appear in a statewide database that police search for PFA enforcement. The public has no access to that PFA statewide registry, only the courts and law enforcement. And PFA orders also appear in the issuing court's civil case files. Local courts generally have searchable online databases for party names and case numbers, from which an employer, school, or other person interested in your background could discover a PFA order against you. Unlike most other civil cases, however, there are unique considerations regarding PFA records in that the records related to the case are generally available upon request by petitioning the applicable Pennsylvania Court of Common Please. Despite this nominal restriction of sorts, you cannot hide a PFA order from someone who wants to access the records. It is better to fight an unjust request for a PFA order upfront by hiring premier Pennsylvania PFA defense attorney Joseph D. Lento.
PFA Orders Enter a Registry. Section 6105(e) of the Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act creates a statewide registry today known as the Protection from Abuse Database. The original Protection from Abuse Act did not anticipate a database. But Pennsylvania's legislature amended the Act at Section 6109(b) to create county-by-county registries. At Section 6105(e), the amendments also authorized the Pennsylvania State Police to pilot a statewide registry. That pilot grew into the current statewide Protection from Abuse Database. Once a county adopts procedures that supply all PFA orders to the statewide database, the county need not maintain a special PFA registry. Counties can vary in their use of the PFA forms that the statewide database requires. Not every PFA order necessarily promptly makes its way into the statewide database. But generally, once the court issues a PFA order, the PFA order should quickly appear in the database.
The Registry Is for Police Enforcement, Not Background Checks. Police use lookups in the statewide PFA database to enforce PFA orders. Section 6105(e)(3) of Pennsylvania's Protection from Abuse Act provides that “[t]he registry of the Pennsylvania State Police shall be available at all times to inform courts, dispatchers and law enforcement officers of any valid protection order involving any defendant.” But police lookups are not the same as an employer, school, or creditor background check. State government public records are generally available under Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law unless other law provides otherwise. And indeed, Section 6105(e)(5) of the Protection from Abuse Act expressly makes registry information unavailable to the public: “Information contained in the Statewide registry shall not be subject to access under the … Right-to-Know Law.” Employers, schools, creditors, and other private entities and persons cannot search the statewide PFA registry.
Civil Court Records Are Searchable. Yet don't get your hopes up that your PFA order will remain secret. PFA orders are civil court records. Civil court records are generally available to the public or other parties, such as background check companies, potential employers, professional licensing board, and so forth. While obtaining a civil case file generally used to take a trip to the courthouse, counties are today making case names, numbers, and filings available in searchable online databases. An employer, school, creditor, or other person who searches the right county for civil case records should be able to learn the party names and case number, from which the searching person can obtain case pleadings, court papers, and orders. There are unique considerations with regards to PFA records as mentioned above, however. Fundamentally, all records related to a PFA can potentially be accessed by the public or other parties. The only caveat is that a requester needs to petition the applicable Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas which addressed the case to request the records. Anyone visiting the court clerk's office may request PFA records via petition, and if approved, which generally would be the case, review and copy the civil PFA court case files, including the PFA orders. Put simply, your PFA order is discoverable. It just takes a little more effort than a simple background check in a single, searchable, online database. You would be better to assume your PFA proceeding's discoverability and fight it now with the skilled representation of Pennsylvania PFA defense attorney Joseph D. Lento than to hope that no one discovers it later after you suffer the PFA order.
Civil Court Records Including PFA Orders Are Permanent. The courts don't generally throw out old case files. In theory, civil case filings last forever, open to the public to read and copy. A PFA complaint and order against you may remain in the court's records as long as the court remains standing. Section 6108.7(a) of the Protection from Abuse Act permits the court to seal a PFA case only under special conditions that most cases don't meet and only ten years after the PFA order expires. You are generally stuck with any final PFA order on your civil court record. More specifically, records related to a temporary PFA that does not become a final PFA can generally be requested to be expunged through a formal court process after the PFA case is over, but if a temporary PFA becomes a final PFA, either after trial or by agreement, records related to the case generally cannot be expunged.
Beware PFA Criminal Contempt Conviction. While a PFA order, whether temporary or final, is not a criminal conviction and so not in a criminal history database, PFA orders can lead to criminal contempt convictions that would appear in a criminal history background check. Section 6114 of the Protection from Abuse Act authorizes criminal contempt charges against a defendant who violates the PFA order. If the court convicts on contempt, for which the law offers no jury trial, then that conviction would appear in a criminal background check.
Concealing a PFA Order Won't Help. Your best approach is not to try to hide a PFA order. You really cannot do so. Any employer, school, professional licensing board, creditor, or other person or entity from whom you seek a benefit and who asks you to disclose PFA matters would expect an honest answer. You could get in serious trouble, including job termination, school expulsion, and fraud liability or charges, for lying about and trying to conceal a PFA order. While you don't necessarily have to advertise a PFA order against you, you also must not mislead others who have reason to inquire about one. Others will likely discover a PFA order entered against you. Hoping no one discovers a PFA order entered against you is not a sound strategy for dealing with a PFA matter.
Your Best Approach. Your better strategy is to fight the PFA request upfront. And your best approach is to fight the PFA request with the most skilled, experienced, and effective Pennsylvania PFA defense attorney available to you. Don't wait to see what happens with the PFA proceeding against you. Instead, as soon as you anticipate a potential PFA proceeding or learn of a PFA complaint, retain premier Pennsylvania PFA attorney Joseph D. Lento to represent you in your PFA proceeding. Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm have one of the strongest records of PFA representation success in Pennsylvania. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 or online for a prompt consultation with Attorney Lento and his team.