He Said, She Said: Is Hearsay Allowed in Restraining Order Hearings?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 03, 2023 | 0 Comments

Hearsay is a fun word we've all heard in courtroom dramas. Suddenly, an attorney jumps from their seat, yells “hearsay,” and intently stares at the judge while the judge considers whether he'll let the witness continue with what they were saying. Although the use of hearsay in the legal setting is far less dramatic, it is just as important. The legal definition of hearsay is an “out-of-court statement made by someone who is not present to testify about the statement that is offered for the truth of the matter asserted.” While that's a mouthful, it simply means that the court should not allow a witness to testify about what they heard from someone else. Who knows, they could be misremembering the statement, unclear on its intent, or making it up altogether! It's a classic case of the game of telephone gone wrong.

What Is a PFA?

Restraining orders in Pennsylvania are most commonly referred to as “PFA” orders which stand for Protection From Abuse orders. PFA orders are most commonly filed in domestic violence cases by an alleged victim seeking protection from an alleged assailant. Although each PFA order varies from case to case, they typically restrict a defendant from contacting the victim, being in or near their home, and coming in or near their place of work. Because PFA orders turn on a victim's alleged experiences with a defendant, these hearings rely on an extensive amount of evidence such as testimony, photographs, text messages, etc.

Pennsylvania Hearsay Laws in Restraining Order Hearings

Pennsylvania Hearsay laws are incredibly complex, and there are a swath of exceptions that allow statements to be admitted as evidence in certain circumstances. Even though Pennsylvania takes PFA orders very seriously, hearsay is still not admissible in court unless one of the exceptions to hearsay law applies. Some of these exceptions include the following:

  • Present Sense Impression: Describes or explains an event or condition that was made while perceiving the event or condition or immediately after. This might include a statement made by a victim immediately after she saw the defendant outside of her home.
  • Excited Utterance: Made while under the stress or excitement of experiencing a shocking event. This might include statements made while calling the police department.
  • Statements Against Self-Interest: Statements made by someone that are not favorable to themselves or their case. This might include a defendant's testimony that he “wanted to kill” their ex-partner while talking to a friend.
  • Medical Treatment or Diagnosis: Includes statements made by an alleged victim to medical personnel while seeking treatment for injuries resulting from the alleged abuse.

Take The Guesswork Out Of Preparing For Your PFA Hearing

For more questions about how to best prepare for an upcoming PFA hearing and what evidence will be admissible in court, contact our experienced Criminal Law Defense team today by calling (888) 535-3686 or by using our online contact form.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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