Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is home to more than 538,000 residents, according to the 2016 census, and is known for its Amish farms and community. The Amish are a quiet people, and like the Amish, Lancaster County tends to be on the quieter side with its scenic farms and Susquehanna River. Things still happen even though the scenery is tranquil, things like arguments among family members or other loved ones. Sometimes these arguments can turn emotions upside down, love turns bitter and false accusations are made.
These false accusations can lead into something that can be legally devastating as much as they are socially problematic. In Lancaster County, a person can obtain a restraining order, known as a Protection from Abuse(PFA) order, against another person for mere claims of abuse. Proof is not necessarily required until five to ten days later when a hearing is scheduled and a permanent PFA order is either issued due to proof of abuse or dismissed due to lack of evidence. Either way, the harm is already done with the temporary PFA order; it becomes part of the court's public record even if the subject of the PFA order was wrongfully accused. Expungement is the only method to remove the false accusation from his or her record. To do so, however, an experienced attorney is recommended to first defend you at the PFA hearing and then to help you complete the process for expungement.
For the purpose of this article, we will identify: (1) the meaning and purpose of a PFA in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; and (2) the qualifications necessary to have a PFA expunged.
Lancaster County, PA: The Meaning & Purpose of a Protection from Abuse Order
A PFA order is not a criminal action even though a claim of abuse initiated the act; a PFA order is a civil order of the court. It is meant to help victims of abuse perpetrated by family members or intimate others. Like so many things in life, however, this service that is meant to do good is itself abused.
A petitioner who realizes the harm she or he has committed by accusing an innocent person of abuse will many times withdraw the petition for a permanent order. Other times, they fail to timely withdraw and the innocent persons must defend themselves at a PFA hearing at the Court of Common Pleas in Lancaster, PA.
Who can be the recipient of a PFA order?
Any family member or an intimate partner can petition for a PFA order against any of the following persons who is claimed to have been abusive:
- Spouses or ex-spouses
- Persons who have lived as spouses
- Domestic partners, current or former
- Same sex couples, current or former
- Siblings, either by blood or marriage.
What does the petitioner have to prove?
The alleged victim or petitioner must prove at the PFA hearing that you committed one or more of the following acts:
- Physical abuse;
- Sexual abuse;
- Stalking; or
- False imprisonment.
If the court finds the evidence appropriate to prove you were abusive in any of the above-mentioned manners, a permanent PFA order that can last up to three years will be issued against you.
Consequences of a PFA Public Record
All PFA orders become part of the court's public record, including emergency and temporary orders. If you are innocent, a court record of a PFA order against you can have significant consequences if someone searches your record. These consequences can include but are not limited to the following:
- Removal from your residence
- Loss of Second Amendment rights
- Job application rejections
- Job termination
- A tarnished reputation.
As you can see, the consequences can be life-altering. An experienced defense attorney may be your best and only option to prevent or minimize these consequences and uphold your rights.
Lancaster County, PA: Expungement of a PFA
According to Carlacci v. Mazaleski, there are two situations under which you can have a PFA expunged in Pennsylvania:
- The petition for a PFA is dismissed; or
- A permanent order was never issued due to lack of evidence or other reason.
Notably to date, you cannot expunge a permanent PFA order. In the Commonwealth v. Charnik, the defendant had a permanent order against him, and the court found because there was a hearing on the evidence, and the court believed the evidence supported abuse, a permanent PFA was appropriate, and expunction was not allowed.
If you have been falsely accused of abuse and have a temporary PFA against you, you need to contact an experienced PFA expungement attorney in Pennsylvania today so that the attorney can build a case for you and defend you at the PFA hearing. Just because someone has a vendetta against you or because you made a very stupid mistake when emotions were running high, your future and your reputation should not pay this severe of a price for it.
Lancaster 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, a reputable criminal defense lawyer, represents clients who have had emergency and/or 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 placed against you. But it is a matter of having enough time to learn about your case and build your defense. Contact him today for a consultation.