How Do PFAs Protect People From Danger?

The primary objective a person seeks from a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order is their personal safety and well-being. But there can be several other reasons behind their request. If you are in the position of responding to a PFA proceeding, you may be overwhelmed with all of the factors and considerations involved. It may help to remember that the person seeking the PFA order should only be seeking protection from potential harm, not trying to achieve other objectives against your interest.

Let's discuss the ways a PFA order could help safeguard the person requesting it and how that person may be seeking other objectives. By understanding the reasons the person requesting the order has for seeking it, you and your retained criminal defense attorney can better determine how to respond. Knowing what your opponent seeks may help you determine what you and your retained defense attorney can and should do to bring the PFA proceeding to your best conclusion.

What Is a PFA Order?

A Protection From Abuse Order is a similar to a restraining order. It is a legal document that can help protect the person requesting it from someone who has been harming or threatening them. It's a court order that instructs the person who has been causing the person requesting the order some harm or making the person requesting the order feel unsafe to stay away from that person and to stop contacting that person.

If you are responding to a filing requesting a PFA order, it's important to know that you are not alone. Many people find themselves facing requests for PFA orders when they don't feel as if they've harmed or threatened anyone. And those people may suspect that the person requesting the PFA order has some other objective for which the legislature did not design the PFA process.

When a person files for a PFA order, they must provide the court with information about why they feel a need for the order. This information might include incidents of violence, threats, or harassment. The person requesting the order must allege qualifying acts or threats. The allegations aren't necessarily true, but they must be present or the court will not grant the requested order.

What do Restraining Orders Look Like in Pennsylvania?

Reiterating the above, a restraining order - known as a protection from abuse (PFA) order in Pennsylvania - is a legal document issued by a court that orders a person to stop engaging in certain behaviors that may harm, threaten, or harass another person. The order can do things like prohibit the person from contacting or approaching the victim or from coming within a certain distance of the victim's home, workplace, or school.

In Pennsylvania, a person requesting a PFA order can obtain it if they can show that they have been the victim of domestic violence, including physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or have been subjected to stalking or harassment. The victim can request the PFA order can, or a police officer may request the order on behalf of the victim.

To obtain a PFA order in Pennsylvania, the victim must file a petition with the court that describes the nature of the abuse or harassment and provides details about the person who is engaging in the behavior. The court will hold a hearing to review the petition, giving you the chance to dispute the allegations of harm or threats. The court may issue a temporary restraining order if it determines that there is a threat of immediate harm to the victim. If the court decides to issue a final restraining order, it can remain in effect for up to three years and can be renewed if necessary.

Violation of a PFA in Pennsylvania is a criminal offense and can result in fines, imprisonment, or both. If the person who is subject to the order violates its terms, the victim can contact law enforcement to report the violation, and the violator could be arrested and charged with a crime. Those penalties make your contesting the PFA request up front all the more important. Don't assume that you'll just comply with a PFA order because you've never been any threat. Instead, defeat the PFA request to be sure you avoid all potential sanctions.

Who Can File a Protection From Abuse Order in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania residents who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or harassment may be eligible to file for a PFA order. If you face a PFA request, it's important to understand the legal definitions of domestic violence and the types of behavior that constitute abuse in Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, domestic violence is defined as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse committed by a current or former spouse, partner, or family member. The victim and the abuser must have a domestic relationship, which includes spouses or former spouses, household members or former household members, or romantic partners or former romantic partners. It may also include individuals who have a child together or are expecting a child. There is no requirement for a minimum length of time for the relationship to be considered valid.

The state of Pennsylvania also maintains a list of behaviors that constitute domestic violence, which includes homicide, assault, kidnapping, stalking, and more. A complete list can be found on the Pennsylvania courts website.

Sexual assault victims can also be eligible to file for a sexual assault restraining order. Sexual assault includes acts of non-consensual sexual penetration, lewdness, or contact. However, if the person seeking the order has an intimate relationship with the offender, they may need to file for a domestic violence restraining order instead.

It's important to note that minors under the age of 18 cannot file for a restraining order in Pennsylvania unless they are emancipated. Individuals who file for a PFA order often seek support from a qualified domestic violence or victim services organization. These organizations connect the individual seeking an order with resources for safety and healing, and provide emotional support throughout the process. If you face a PFA request, you may see the influence and advocacy of one of those organizations.

Are Pennsylvania PFA Orders Enforceable in Other States?

Pennsylvania restraining orders, known as Protection from Abuse (PFA) orders, are enforceable in other states through a legal process called "full faith and credit." This constitutional clause means that other states must honor and enforce a PFA order issued in Pennsylvania as long as the order was issued through a valid legal process and meets the legal requirements for full faith and credit. If you suffer a PFA order against you in Pennsylvania, that order can affect your rights and privileges in other states.

However, it's important to note that enforcement may vary depending on the state in which the PFA order is being enforced. Some states may require additional steps or procedures, while others may enforce the order immediately. Additionally, the duration of the order may vary depending on the laws of the state in which it is being enforced.

If you face a PFA order issued in Pennsylvania that may affect your rights and privileges in other states, consult the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team to determine how to protect your interests. The Lento Law Firm Team can help you understand the legal requirements for modifying the Pennsylvania order or contesting it in another state.

How Do Restraining Orders Help Victims?

Remember, PFA orders are supposed to protect victims, not be used or abused for other advantages, like to secure child custody, oust someone from a home, or take revenge on someone with whom the person requesting the order formerly had an intimate relationship. These are some legitimate ways that restraining orders help victims:

  1. Establish clear boundaries: A restraining order can set clear boundaries and prohibit the person causing harm from contacting the victim, which can help the victim feel safer and more secure.
  2. Provide legal recourse: If the person causing harm violates the terms of the restraining order, they can be arrested and charged with a crime. This can provide victims with a sense of legal recourse and help deter the person from continuing to cause harm.
  3. Offer peace of mind: A restraining order can offer victims peace of mind and help them feel more in control of their situation. It can also help reduce anxiety and stress levels.
  4. Enable victims to stay in their homes: If the person causing harm lives with the victim, a restraining order can require them to move out of the home, which can allow the victim to stay in their home without fear.
  5. Provide a sense of support: The process of obtaining a restraining order can be daunting, but it can also provide victims with a sense of support and validation. It can show them that their experiences are being taken seriously and that legal options are available to protect them.

How Does a Person File for a Protection From Abuse Order in Pennsylvania?

The process for filing for a PFA order in Pennsylvania involves the following several steps. Knowing these steps can help you see what you and your retained criminal defense attorney must do to contest and avoid an unnecessary and burdensome PFA order:

  1. Obtain the necessary forms: The victim must obtain the necessary forms to file for a PFA order at the courthouse or from a qualified domestic violence or victim services organization.
  2. Fill out the forms: The forms require the victim to provide detailed information about the abuse or harassment the victim allegedly experienced, as well as information about the person who is causing harm. The allegations are supposed to be details, not generalities.
  3. File the forms: Once the victim has completed the forms, the victim must file them with the court. Filing can typically be done at the courthouse during regular business hours.
  4. Attend a hearing: The court will schedule a hearing within 10 days of receiving the victim's petition. You should receive notice of the hearing. At the hearing, you and your retained criminal defense attorney will have the opportunity to present evidence that you did not commit abuse or harassment and that an order is unnecessary, and to limit the terms of any order to something reasonable with which you can comply, preferably so that you do not lose your children, home, or job. Your retained criminal defense attorney can also challenge the putative victim's evidence.
  5. Receive the order: If the court determines that the victim is in danger, it will issue a temporary PFA order that will remain in effect until a final order is issued. A final order can remain in effect for up to three years, and can be renewed if necessary.

Do I Need an Attorney to Fight a PFA Order Request?

While it is not absolutely necessary to hire a criminal defense attorney to fight a PFA order in Pennsylvania, it is certainly wise to do so. The putative victim requesting the PFA order will very likely have skilled attorney representation, possibly from a prosecuting attorney. You need a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney to level the playing field. The Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team can help ensure that you are fully informed of your legal rights and options and help you present your best defense case in court.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Team have years of experience dealing with restraining orders and PFAs, and can offer invaluable perspective and support if you are facing a PFA order request. Reaching out as soon as possible can help you understand the legal process and feel more prepared for your court date.

Don't lose your child custody, home, job, and reputation if you are facing a restraining order request. Instead, contact Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888-535-5336 to schedule a consultation or reach out via the contact form.

Contact Us Today!

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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