Being served with a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) in Pennsylvania can upend your world in many ways. In a moment, you could be barred from contact with your spouse or partner, have your custody or visitation rights revoked, be forced to move out of your home, etc. But the long-term effects of a PFA can be even worse, especially if you are licensed to work in a profession like audiology.
You've worked long and hard to become a licensed audiologist in Pennsylvania and build a career. In a sense, your professional license is your most prized possession because your livelihood hinges on it. But if you're served with a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) in Pennsylvania—even if you're not charged with a crime, and even if the PFA is based on false testimony—your professional license could be in jeopardy. The State Board of Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology holds its licensees to high standards of professionalism and upright conduct, and a PFA could be viewed as a compromise of the public trust. At worst, you could have your license revoked.
Suffice it to say, the more you can do proactively to keep a PFA from taking effect, the lower the risk will be to your career. The Lento Law Firm has provided the following critical information to help you understand what is at stake and what steps you need to take to protect your audiology license.
PFAs in Pennsylvania
Designed to provide legal protection for victims of domestic violence, harassment, and stalking, a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) is a civil order that prohibits the respondent (defendant) from contact with the petitioner (plaintiff). There is no requirement that you be charged with a crime in order for the court to issue a PFA against you; the judge simply has to be convinced that you are a potential danger to the petitioner. Once the petition is made, the judge typically responds by issuing a temporary PFA that goes into effect immediately and blocks you from contacting the petitioner under threat of criminal charges. A temporary PFA usually lasts up to 10 days pending a hearing, during which the judge will hear from both sides and decide whether to issue a final PFA. If you've been served with a temporary PFA, this hearing is your opportunity to appear with an attorney, cross-examine witnesses, and present evidence to contest the PFA. If the judge issues a final PFA, it will remain in effect for up to 3 years.
Will My PFA Show Up in Criminal Background Checks?
No. A PFA is a civil judgment, and it does not appear on criminal background checks. However, if you violate a temporary or final PFA in any way, even inadvertently, you run the risk of being arrested and charged with contempt. If you're convicted of that charge, the conviction will show up on background checks.
How Could a PFA Trigger an Investigation by My Licensing Board?
The State Board of Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology may find out about the PFA in a variety of ways. For example, someone might file a complaint with the board, or if you're convicted of violating the PFA, the court may notify the board directly of your criminal record. If the board becomes aware of the Protection from Abuse Order against you, it may launch an investigation to see whether the PFA points to actions of misconduct or other violations of board policies. If the board believes wrongdoing occurred, it may summon you to a formal hearing, after which it will make a final decision whether to take disciplinary action against you. At best, you might receive a formal reprimand or a fine, or you might be required to undergo treatment or counseling. At worst, the board could end up revoking your license to practice.
I Have a PFA Against Me. What Can I Do To Protect My Audiology License?
Although PFAs don't show up on criminal background checks, they do appear on public court records that may be searched. Once a PFA is issued, the best way to minimize the risk of an investigation by the licensing board is to fight the PFA with the help of a qualified criminal defense attorney. Consider taking any/all of the following steps:
- Challenge the temporary PFA at the hearing. The final PFA hearing is your best option for getting a temporary PFA dismissed, so the judge doesn't make it final. You and your attorney should make a compelling argument as to why the PFA should not have been issued. It won't necessarily keep the temporary PFA from appearing in court records, but if the board is concerned, it's easier to avoid disciplinary action if the PFA is no longer in effect.
- Appeal the final PFA. If you can show that the judge made a mistake in issuing the final PFA, you may submit a Motion To Reconsider or Appeal the PFA directly to Superior Court in the hope of having it reversed.
- Seek an expungement of the PFA record. If a temporary PFA was never finalized because it was dismissed or the petitioner had a change of heart, you can request that the courts remove all mention of it from public court records.
- If the board launches an investigation, address their concerns honestly and directly. In this case, an attorney with experience in professional license defense can greatly improve your chances of prevailing with the licensing board and averting disciplinary action.
You've invested too much time, money, and energy into your audiology career to have it jeopardized by a PFA—especially one you didn't deserve and can't control. By acting quickly with the help of a seasoned Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, you can greatly reduce the risk to your professional license. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience dealing with Protection from Abuse Orders, and he has additional experience in professional license defense. Don't take chances with your career; call the Lento Law firm at 888-535-3686 to see how we can help.