According to statewide data provided by Pennsylvania State Police, 47,861 new temporary protection-from-abuse (PFA) orders were processed in 2018. That is an increase of more than 8,700 from the previous year. In Schuylkill County, there were roughly 343 PFA orders processed. The chart below shows a comparison with neighboring counties.
Adjacent County Comparison: Protection From Abuse (2018)
Hearings for PFA are conducted by a judge at the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas. Those who violate the conditions of a PFA may be arrested and brought before the court for an Indirect Criminal Contempt hearing.
A PFA is a civil court order that serves to protect an alleged victim from abuse. They apply to abuse that involves members of a family, household, sexual or intimate partners or those who are parents to a child. State statute explains that abusive acts are done with intent. These acts include any of the following:
- Attempting or causing bodily injury, rape, involuntary sexual intercourse, sexual assault, indecent assault, or incest
- Causing someone to have a “reasonable fear” of bodily injury
- Falsely imprisoning the individual(s)
- Sexual or physical abuse of a minor
- Following (stalking) someone, which creates a fear of bodily injury
Those that are seeking a PFA can complete the petition and be issued a temporary order. A judge will review the petition and implement the temporary order if a danger exists. There is never any fee for making a filing. The Sheriff's Office will formally serve the alleged abuser with a copy.
Parties will be summoned to a hearing within 10 business days. At the hearing, the parties can testify, call witnesses, and present evidence. The standard for proving abuse is by the preponderance of the evidence. It is recommended that parties have legal representation for the hearing. If the abuse is proven, the judge will implement a permanent (final) order.
Possible Conditions (Relief)
The courts may use their discretion to compile the conditions of a PFA. The abuser will be prohibited from stalking, harassing or otherwise abusing the petitioner. The individual will generally be ordered to vacate the residence if the parties live together. The courts can establish provisions when there are minor children such as relating to custody and visitation.
The abuser may be required to provide financial compensation if the petitioner incurred losses related to the abuse. Ongoing financial support may be ordered as needed for housing, medical care, etc. The abuser may be prohibited from purchasing, acquiring, or otherwise possessing firearms or other weapons.
The abuser will typically be required to make no direct or indirect contact with the victim(s). This will generally include visiting the victim's place of employment, school, homes of relatives, etc.
Violating a PFA
The authorities may arrest a party without a warrant when probable cause exists that a PFA was violated. The Pennsylvania State Police maintain a centralized database that compiles data related to PFAs.
Attorney Represents Clients in PFA Hearing
A PFA is often established for the protection of victims of abuse. Unfortunately, some of these accusations are not entirely based on truth. Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents the best interests of his clients at PFA hearings, in hearings for PFA violations, and more. You are encouraged to contact the office today for a case evaluation at (888) 535-3686.