Chester County, Pennsylvania is home to more than 516,000 residents, according to the 2016 census. The majority of the population (86%) is white whose median income is about $89,000, the latter of which is considerably above the nation's median income, which was $55,000 in 2016. The population is well-educated: 93% possess a high school diploma and 50% have a Bachelor's degree or higher degree. With these statistics, Chester County is quite affluent. And yet, things still happen in Chester County as they do elsewhere, things like abuse.
In Chester County, a person can obtain a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order against another person with relative and alarming ease. The relative ease allows an abused person to obtain immediate help to keep the abusive person away. The problem, however, is when this safety legal measure is used inappropriately as a means for revenge or other similar motive, and the subject of the PFA order is innocent and is irreparably harmed by the accusation. If you have been wrongly subjected to a PFA order, your only recourse is PFA expungement.
For the purpose of this article, we will identify: (1) the meaning and purpose of a PFA in Chester County, Pennsylvania; and (2) the qualifications necessary to have a PFA expunged.
Chester County, PA: The Meaning & Purpose of a Protection from Abuse Order
Though some may think a PFA is associated with a criminal charge, it is not; a PFA action is a civil matter and many times the subject of the PFA is never charged with a crime. The Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act, 23 PA.C.S.A. §§ 6101-61119, as amended, governs a PFA civil action. A person can file a petition for a PFA order if the alleged abuse is against a family member or an intimate partner, as in the following:
- Spouses or ex-spouses
- Persons who have lived as spouses
- Domestic partners
- Same sex couples
- Siblings, either by blood or marriage
- Current or former sexual or intimate partners, e.g., someone you date(d).
The alleged victim cannot file a petition against a stranger or, for instance, a roommate with whom she or he was not intimate.
To file the petition and obtain either an emergency PFA order (which is obtained from a Magisterial District Judge if the Court of Common Pleas is closed) or a temporary PFA order (which is obtained by filing a petition at the Court of Common Pleas, located in West Chester, during business hours), the petitioner must claim that the alleged abusive person committed one or more of the following acts:
- Physical abuse;
- Sexual abuse;
- Threats that caused real fear of serious physical abuse; or
- Restraint by knowingly keeping the person against his or her will with no safe means to escape.
Emergency and temporary orders become part of the court's public record. After a temporary PFA order is received, a hearing will be held within five to ten days. At that time, proof must be provided, and if the court deems the allegations are real, then a permanent PFA order is issued. This order can last as long as three years from the date it was issued, and it also becomes part of the court's public record.
Consequences of a PFA Public Record
If you are innocent, a court record of a PFA order against you can have real consequences, such as but not limited to the following:
- Loss of Second Amendment rights
- Payment for out-of-pocket expenses the alleged victim claims due to the alleged abuse
- Job application rejections
- Job termination
- A sullied reputation.
Chester County, PA: Expungement of a PFA
Expungement was not always an available tool for innocent persons subjected to a PFA order, but through the opinion of Carlacci v. Mazaleski, expungements are allowed under two circumstances:
- The petition for a PFA is dismissed; or
- The proceedings never go to a hearing where a temporary order could be replaced by a permanent order.
Notably, expunction is not available to persons who attended a hearing and had a permanent PFA order placed against him or her. Because of the latter, it is extremely important to contact an attorney as soon as you are aware there is a temporary PFA order against you. Your professional and personal reputations are at stake; don't think for one minute that a PFA order is harmless, because it is not. You need an experienced Chester County expungement attorney to fight the allegations and prevent a permanent PFA order and permanent negative mark on your integrity.
Chester County PFA Expungement Attorney
If you have been falsely accused of abuse and have a temporary PFA order against you, you need experienced legal representation. This matter is both serious and delicate, and it requires the experience of a knowledgeable attorney. Joseph D. Lento represents clients who have had temporary PFA orders filed against them. Joseph D. Lento will do all it takes to prevent a permanent PFA order to be filed against you. Contact him today for a consultation.