If you are an athletic trainer or another licensed professional who has been hit with a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) in Pennsylvania, it can have far-reaching implications for your life both now and in the future. A PFA can bar you from contact with your significant other, force you from your home, impact your custody rights, and prevent you from owning a weapon. But a PFA can also trigger an investigation into your license with the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine, potentially putting your license in jeopardy. At worst, this action could cause you to lose your license—and by extension, your livelihood.
All is not lost, however; by proactively fighting the PFA with the help of a skilled Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney like Joseph D. Lento, you can reduce the risk to your athletic trainer's license and protect your career. If you're an athletic trainer facing a Protection from Abuse Order in Pennsylvania, here's what you need to know.
Overview of PFAs in Pennsylvania
A Protection from Abuse Order is a civil court order that provides legal protection to individuals who are being subjected to domestic violence. If you receive a PFA against you, it restricts or completely forbids your contact with the individual who filed it against you (known as the petitioner). You don't have to be charged or convicted of a crime to have a PFA against you, and the burden of proof on the petitioner is fairly low. The judge must simply be convinced that you present a credible threat to the alleged victim's safety. Violating the PFA in any way is a crime that could garner you up to six months in jail--this, in addition to any other domestic violence charges you might be facing.
In most PFA cases, the judge starts by issuing a temporary PFA, which goes into effect immediately and lasts until a hearing can be scheduled. At this hearing, you may appear with your attorney and make a case as to why the PFA should not have been issued. The judge will determine whether to allow the temporary PFA to expire or issue a final PFA after the hearing is completed. A final PFA will stay in effect for up to three years.
Will a PFA Show Up on Criminal Background Checks?
Not directly. A PFA is classified as a civil penalty rather than a criminal sentence, so it will not show up on criminal background checks. However, if you are convicted of a related crime such as violating the PFA, that conviction will generate a criminal record. Additionally, an PFA, temporary or permanent, will be recorded in court records which may be accessed upon request. So, if someone asks for court records to find out whether you have a PFA, they may be able to see it.
How Can a PFA Endanger My Athletic Trainer License?
The Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine holds all its licensees (from doctors to athletic trainers) to high ethical and professional standards. While having a PFA is not proof of a crime, it does suggest that you're capable of violence, which can be viewed by the board as a violation of the public trust. Thus, if the board discovers that a PFA has been issued against you, this could trigger an investigation resulting in disciplinary action against your license--up to and including losing your license altogether.
How Could the Board of Medicine Learn About a PFA if It Doesn't Show Up on a Background Check?
The State Board of Medicine may learn of your PFA in a variety of ways. For example:
- The board may discover the PFA by consulting court records, perhaps as part of a separate investigation
- If you violate the PFA and are convicted of criminal contempt, the board may be notified of this conviction
- A client, colleague, or someone else could file a formal complaint with the board that mentions the PFA
Ways to Reduce the Risk to Your Athletic Trainer's License
When you're served with a PFA, your first step should be to consult an attorney. A responsive approach is the best way to deal with both the immediate and long-term effects of the PFA, including any threats to your license. Your attorney may recommend any of the following:
- Contest the temporary PFA. Attend the PFA hearing with your attorney and present evidence to challenge the PFA. Your risk of disciplinary action to your license is greatly reduced if you can convince the judge not to issue a final PFA.
- Request to have your temporary PFA removed from court records. Final PFAs are kept in court records indefinitely. However, if a temporary PFA was withdrawn or dismissed without being finalized, you can petition to have it removed from court records.
- Appeal the final PFA. You have ten days after the PFA is finalized to file a Motion to Reconsider and 30 days to file a formal appeal. If you are able to show that the PFA was issued as a mistake in law or mistake, in fact, you may be able to have the PFA overturned.
- Directly address the concerns of the board. If the Board of Medicine learns of the PFA and starts to investigate, a skilled license defense attorney can assist you in addressing their concerns, demonstrating how the PFA does not impact your competence as an athletic trainer. This can often save your license or at least minimize the damage.
You've worked hard to get to where you are in your career as an athletic trainer, so don't let a PFA put your license at risk. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help you contest the PFA as well as help you address any concerns raised by the board. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to see how we can help.