Northampton County, Pennsylvania is bordered by the famous Poconos in the north and the Delaware River in the East, the latter of which separate Pennsylvania from New Jersey. The county in included in both the Allentown-Bethlehem-easton, PA-JN Metropolitan Statistical Area and the New York City-Newark, New Jersey, NY-NJ-CT-PA combined statistical area. Northampton County is home to more than 300,000 residents, according to the 2016 census, and a large percentage live in households consisting on average of 2.57 persons with a median household income (approximately $62,000) above the nation's average (approximately $55,000).
Money, however, does not alway bind families or intimate persons living together in a household. Emotions can tear relationships apart. And emotions of jealousy, bitterness, anger, and the like, can cause serious harm if those emotions lead a person to wrongfully accuse another person of abuse. Sometimes a person is so hurt or angry at another person that he or she will use any means to harm that person without considering short- or long-term implications. Accusations of abuse carry consequences, and it is sometimes difficult to erase those consequences even after it is clear the subject of the accusation is innocent.
In Northampton County, a person can obtain an emergency or temporary restraining order against someone with little need of proof of abuse. That order becomes part of the court's public record, so it is searchable and findable by any person, whether it is a future employer or other entity. Your only recourse after a false accusation is expungement. An attorney is your best option to protect you against false accusations and to clear your name from the court's record.
For the purpose of this article, we will identify: (1) the meaning and purpose of a PFA in Northampton County, Pennsylvania; and (2) the qualifications necessary to have a PFA expunged.
Northampton County, PA: The Meaning & Purpose of a Protection from Abuse Order
A PFA is a civil action, not a criminal action, though one may consider as such since it involves a claim of abuse. The PFA order is governed by the Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act, 23 PA.C.S.A. §§ 6101-61119, as amended.
Who can a PFA order be filed against?
Upon an allegation and showing of abuse, a PFA order can be obtained against any of the following:
- Spouses or former spouses
- Current or former sexual or intimate partners
- Household members related by blood
- Household members related by marriage
- Same sex couples
- Parents and children.
If the petitioner is 17 years old or younger, he or she will need to have an adult file on his or her behalf. Also, a PFA action cannot be brought against neighbors, roommates, coworkers, classmates, or strangers.
What must be proven for a Permanent PFA Order?
There are two basic elements that must be proven for a permanent PFA order to be issued. First, the petitioner must prove the alleged abuser is a family member or was an intimate partner. Second, the petitioner must prove the abuse, which can include any of the following acts:
- Physical abuse;
- Sexual abuse;
- Threats that made the petitioner feel as though he or she was in imminent danger;
- Stalking; or
- False imprisonment, e.g. the defendant knowingly held the petitioner against his or her will without the petitioner having a safe means to escape.
What are the consequences of a PFA order?
If you have had a PFA order filed against you, not only will you not be able to go around the petitioner, but you may also experience any of the following:
- Removal from your residence if you had been living with the petitioner
- Loss of constitutional rights, e.g. right to firearms
- Payment for PFA fees
- Public court record of a PFA order.
Consequences are not limited to the above examples. To prevent or counter these consequences, you need a defense attorney who can aggressively advocate on your behalf at the PFA hearing. To do so is your best chance to prevent a permanent PFA order against you, which carries with it tougher consequences than a temporary order.
Northampton County, PA: Expungement of a PFA
There are only two situations in Pennsylvania under which you can obtain an expungement of a court record of your PFA order, and these two situations include:
- The petition for a PFA was dismissed; or
- A permanent PFA order was never issued because the request may have been withdrawn (e.g., you reconciled with the petitioner, the petitioner knows the claim was wrongly made, or there was insufficient evidence of abuse).
If a permanent PFA order is issued, the public record cannot be expunged. The latter is reason why you must hire an experienced attorney as soon as you are aware of a temporary PFA order against you.
Northampton County PFA Expungement Attorney
If you have been falsely accused of abuse and have a PFA order against you, you need experienced legal representation. The courts already show preference for the petitioner, and a permanent order against you is also a permanent stain on your record. You require a lawyer who knows both the the court and the judges at the Court of Common Pleas in Easton, Pennsylvania. You also need a lawyer who can draw on years of experience to strategize a defense that will maximize your chances of a good outcome.