Need help managing the complexities of a PFA? Interested in protecting your reputation and avoiding the loss of your home, personal effects, and relationships? Joseph D. Lento (888.535.3686) is here to provide timely assistance.
In Pennsylvania, it's illegal to stalk, harass, abuse, or threaten to abuse another person. If someone believes that they are a victim of these types of crimes, they can, under Pennsylvania law, apply for a Protection From Abuse order — colloquially known as a PFA. PFAs can be granted on a temporary basis by a Judge, or on a permanent basis with a full hearing in family court.
As an order restricting the alleged offender from contact with the victim, PFAs can help protect victims (or potential victims) from domestic violence-related events. It's clear that, on some level, these orders are necessary. Hundreds of people have died from domestic violence incidents in Pennsylvania over the last decade alone. Many more have suffered.
However, we can't overlook the fact that there are suffering and consequences for everyone impacted by a PFA. Defendants of a PFA could be ordered from their home, prevented from seeing their children, and even risk a criminal record if they accidentally violate the terms of the order.
Navigating the complexities of PFAs requires niche experience, deft skills, and constant empathy. If you have been served with a PFA or an order to appear in family court for a PFA hearing, you need to work with an attorney. Knowing your rights, being prepared for the outcomes of your hearing, and being able to present a strong defense with confidence can make a world of difference in your case. Call Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 for the help you seek.
Who Can File for a PFA?
When a PFA has been filed, it can be natural for those who hear of it to side with the alleged victim. As PFAs are sometimes filed based on feelings rather than facts, it's important to understand precisely what is happening before proceeding with a PFA process.
In order to be eligible for a PFA, a plaintiff must be in a qualifying relationship with the defendant (e.g., current or former dating or intimate relationships, siblings, spouses, or those who have a child together). The plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that an act of abuse has happened.
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania law defines abuse very broadly. (PA Stat §6102  states that “knowingly engaging in a course of conduct…which place[s] that person in reasonable fear” is enough.) A plaintiff can apply for a PFA by themselves, too: As the defendant in a PFA case, you may not have the chance to tell your side of the story until the high-stakes hearing in family court, at which the judge will determine whether a final (permanent) PFA is needed.
How Can I Get a PFA Order Dismissed?
There are two ways to get a judge to dismiss a PFA order:
- When the plaintiff in your case first applies for a PFA, they will have a hearing with the judge. As the defendant will not be present, the judge won't have any reason not to believe the plaintiff's complaint. The judge will be comparing the specifics of the complaint to the stipulations of the Pennsylvania PFA statute. If the plaintiff's complaint does not meet those requirements, the judge likely won't issue the temporary PFA in the first place.
- If the judge does issue a temporary PFA, a defendant will need to prepare to tell their story during the hearing for the final PFA. Defendants will need to focus on making it difficult for the plaintiffs to show that abuse clearly happened. If the plaintiff lacks objective evidence or if the defendant doesn't have a previous history of domestic violence, it will be easier for your attorney to cast doubt on the plaintiff's case. This can result in a dismissal of the PFA.
If you're facing a PFA hearing, you need to work with your attorney to create the best possible defense. Retaining an attorney early in the process can make a big difference, as your attorney will have more time to help you find evidence and clear your name. The moment you suspect that a PFA hearing may be in your future, call 888.535.3686 to set up a consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your area.
Can I Appeal a Final PFA?
Yes, you can — but it can be far more difficult than making sure one doesn't exist in the first case. After discussing your options with your defense attorney, you may be able to either file a motion for reconsideration of the PFA in family court, or you can file an appeal of your PFA to the Superior Court.
There are some requirements that can complicate the matter: For example, you must file a motion for reconsideration within ten days of the final PFA order, and if you decide to escalate to the Superior Court, you must do so within 30 days. Additionally, instead of simply restating your story, you and your attorney will need to argue that the judge issuing the final PFA made some kind of mistake.
Since this is the case, it's in your best interest to hire an attorney early and focus your efforts on the dismissal of the final PFA.
Rely on Joseph D. Lento for Aggressive Defense of PFA Petitions
If you are facing a Pennsylvania PFA petition, you have reason to be worried about the real-life consequences at stake. The order, if granted, will go into a nationwide database, which can do long-term damage to your reputation. You may also be subject to bias from people who implicitly believe PFA petitioners. You need to be sure that you enjoy all of your rights — and that your PFA defense process is as strategic as possible.
PFA procedures can be complex. Hiring aggressive defense representation is the best thing you can do to work towards a favorable outcome. Reach out to Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to enjoy the benefit of years of targeted experience and expertise.