Becoming a UCC-certified building inspector in Pennsylvania is no small feat. That certification enables you to take inspection projects you would otherwise not be allowed to undertake. The job of building inspector is also one of public trust, and unfortunately, it doesn't always take much for that trust to be eroded. For example, if you're a building inspector who has been hit with a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) in Pennsylvania, you may have concerns about how your career could be impacted. In fact, while the risks to your certification may be relatively low, they aren't zero. If the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry becomes aware of the PFA, depending on the circumstances, the department has the right to rescind your UCC certification.
The good news is that if you take action in response to a PFA, there's a high possibility that your certification and career will emerge unscathed. Attorney Joseph D. Lento understands the ramifications of a PFA on your personal and professional life, and he will work on your behalf to minimize or reverse the impact of a PFA. Let's talk more in-depth about PFAs and how they can affect a building inspector's certification.
How PFAs Work in Pennsylvania
A Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) is a civil order designed to offer protection to victims of domestic violence. If you're served with one, that PFA prohibits you from contact with the person who requested protection (i.e., the petitioner). There may be restrictions on where you live, how close you can get to the petitioner, and even whether you can see your kids (if children are involved). Because this is a civil action instead of a criminal one, the burden of proof is fairly low—in fact, you don't even have to be charged with a crime for a PFA to be issued against you. The judge simply must be convinced that you present a credible threat to the safety of the petitioner.
In most cases, the judge's first step is to issue a temporary PFA, which is effective immediately and lasts for up to ten days until a hearing can be scheduled. At the hearing, you'll have an opportunity to appear with your attorney and challenge the validity of the PFA. If you prevail on the judge that the PFA is unnecessary—or if the petitioner agrees to withdraw their complaint--the temporary PFA will be dropped or allowed to expire. If the judge believes the petitioner still needs protection, he/she will issue a final PFA, which stays in effect for up to three years. Any violation of a PFA (temporary or final) is a crime punishable by up to six months in jail.
How Could a PFA Hurt My Building Inspector Certification?
One might assume that a PFA has no bearing on your ability to perform your duties as a certified building inspector—and for the most part, that's true. However, the Pennsylvania Code does grant the Department of Labor and Industry the right to de-certify individuals who act "in a manner presenting a danger to the public health and safety." Although a completely innocent person could still have a PFA against them--and although you may never be charged with a crime--the existence of the PFA itself suggests to the Department that at least one person considers you to be a danger to their safety, and a judge agreed with them. In certain situations, that could be enough to trigger a Department investigation that could result in having your UCC certification rescinded.
Does a PFA Show Up on Criminal Background Checks?
No. A PFA is a civil action, not a criminal one, so it doesn't appear on criminal background checks UNLESS you are convicted of violating the PFA itself. However, PFAs are technically a matter of public record because they are documented in court records that can be accessed upon request. If a person wants to know whether you have a PFA, they can generally discover it in the court records.
Thus, while the Department won't necessarily be on the lookout for negative information about you, they could be alerted to the existence of your PFA if:
- Someone files a formal complaint against you mentioning the PFA
- You are convicted of violating the PFA
- If they run a search of court records on you (perhaps as part of a different investigation)
How To Protect Your UCC Certification if Served With a PFA
If you are a certified building inspector and have a PFA issued against you, it is important to take immediate action to protect your UCC certification. The first step is to contact an experienced Pennsylvania PFA attorney who can help you navigate the process and protect your rights. Your lawyer can help you employ several strategies for minimizing the risk to your certification, including the following:
- Successfully contesting the temporary PFA. Your PFA hearing is your opportunity to present your case and challenge the validity of the PFA. If the temporary PFA is not finalized, the risk to your career is greatly reduced.
- Petition to remove the temporary PFA from court records. If your PFA is finalized, it will remain in court records permanently. However, under Pennsylvania law, you may petition to have the temporary PFA removed from court records if it was dismissed or withdrawn before being finalized.
- Appeal the final PFA. If the judge issued the final PFA incorrectly or inappropriately, you could file a Motion to Reconsider within ten days or a formal appeal within 30 days to try and have it overturned.
- Address the Department's concerns directly. If the Department gets word of the PFA and has concerns about it, you'll likely be given an opportunity to respond before your building inspector certification is revoked. A skilled license defense attorney can assist you in addressing their concerns. If your attorney can convince them that the PFA is not warranted and/or does not make you a threat to public safety, you can save your certification.
You've worked too hard to establish your career to allow a PFA to jeopardize it. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has experience both in navigating PFAs and in professional licensing issues. If you're served with a PFA, call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to see how we can help.