Delaware County, Pennsylvania is home to more than 563,000 residents, according to the 2016 census. The majority of the population (70%) is white with the second largest demographic being black or African American (20%). The median income is about $66,000, which is a little more than the nation's median income of $55,000. The population is well-educated: 92% possess a high school diploma and 37% have a Bachelor's degree or higher degree. These statistics are relatively good and may lead you to believe that life is also good in Delaware County. And generally speaking, it is. But there's a lot that goes on, too, that can cause stress, and it is usually related to someone close to you.
In Delaware County, a person can obtain a restraining order against another person for claims of abuse, which is more appropriately called a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order. To acquire an emergency or temporary order, the “victim” only needs to claim abuse, proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not necessary. The reason for the rather easy ability to obtain a PFA order is simple: in cases of real abuse, it prohibits the abuser from going anywhere near the victim.
But in many cases, these claims are falsely made in a moment of confusion, rage, revenge, bitterness, child custody disputes, or for any other similar reason or motive. This is a serious problem for the accused because the accusation itself can cause irreparable harm. If you have been falsely accused, your only recourse is a PFA expungement, and for that to succeed, time is of the essence.
For the purpose of this article, we will identify: (1) the meaning and purpose of a PFA in Delaware County, Pennsylvania; and (2) the qualifications necessary to have a PFA expunged.
Delaware County, PA: The Meaning & Purpose of a Protection from Abuse Order
A PFA is a restraining order that can be initially issued by either of the following: (1) a Court of Common Pleas Judge, who is located in Media, Pennsylvania, and who issues temporary PFA orders that are good until the PFA hearing, which are held within five to ten days; or (2) a District Justice, who issues an emergency PFA order if the Court of Common Pleas is closed, but this order is good only until the Court of Common Pleas opens, at which time you file a petition for a PFA order.
Just because a PFA order has been issued against you, it is not an indication that you are guilty of a crime. A PFA cation is civil in nature, and many subjects of this kind of order never have a crime charged against them. The Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act, 23 PA.C.S.A. §§ 6101-61119, as amended, governs a PFA civil action.
Who can be the recipient of a PFA order?
A PFA order can be filed against any 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).
What does the petitioner have to prove?
During the PFA hearing, the alleged victim must prove that you committed one or more of the following acts:
- physical abuse;
- sexual abuse;
- Intimidation that caused real fear of serious physical abuse; or
- Restraint by knowingly keeping a person against his or her will with no safe means to escape.
If the court believes there is evidence that proves abuse, then a permanent PFA order will be issued, and this order can last up to three years. All PFA orders become 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 -- even if it was an emergency or temporary order -- can have real consequences, such as but not limited to the following:
- Removal from your residence
- Loss of Second Amendment rights
- Job application rejections
- Job termination
- A sullied reputation.
Delaware County, PA: Expungement of a PFA
According to Carlacci v. Mazaleski, expungements are allowed under two circumstances: (1) the petition for a PFA is dismissed; or (2) a permanent PFA was never issued. Expunction is not available to persons who have had a permanent PFA order placed against them.
As mentioned earlier, if you want an expungement, time is of the essence. You need to hire an experienced PFA expungement lawyer who will protect your rights and your reputation at the PFA hearing.To assume that you can go into court and represent yourself is a mistake. Of course, you can, but you may not be knowledgeable of the judge, what he expects and how he tends to respond to certain matters; you may not know the proper procedures; and, more importantly, you may not know how to frame your case in an effective, persuasive, and accurate way so that it is reasonably clear that you did not commit abuse against the victim.
Delaware 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. Joseph D. Lento represents clients who have had temporary PFA orders filed against them, and have helped them get their records expunged. 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.