If you're a licensed chiropractor in Pennsylvania, being served with a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) can upend your world in many ways, even if you're being falsely accused of abuse. You could be prohibited from communicating with your spouse or significant other, forced out of your house, required to alter your routine, and even lose custody rights if you have children with your accuser. And unfortunately, if the Pennsylvania State Board of Chiropractic gets notified of the PFA's existence, it could even potentially trigger an investigation against you, putting your chiropractor's license in jeopardy.
For these reasons, if a PFA has been issued against you, the more proactive you can be in fighting it, the less likely it will impact your career. Hiring an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney like Joseph D. Lento can greatly improve your chances for a favorable outcome. If you're a chiropractor dealing with a PFA, the following key information will help you understand what's at stake and what you need to do next.
Understanding How PFAs Work in Pennsylvania
A Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) is a civil court order that provides legal protection for domestic violence victims against their abusers. The person requesting protection is the petitioner (or plaintiff), and the accused is the respondent (or defendant). A petitioner can be a spouse, ex-spouse, co-habitant, current or former dating partner, live-in relative, etc.
When a PFA is issued against you, you are legally barred from contact with the petitioner while the PFA is in effect. Violating the PFA is a crime punishable by up to 6 months in jail. Unlike criminal charges, which require proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" that you committed a crime, the burden of proof for PFAs is actually quite low. In fact, you don't even have to be charged with a crime to have a PFA against you; the petitioner only needs to convince a judge that you pose a legitimate and immediate threat to them.
A request for a temporary PFA is the first step in obtaining legal protection. If granted by the court, it takes effect immediately without the defendant's involvement. The temporary PFA is in effect for a maximum of ten working days, pending a hearing to determine whether to finalize it. You will be notified of this hearing when you are served with the temporary PFA. At the final hearing, you may have legal representation, present evidence, and call witnesses to contest the PFA and demonstrate how the allegations against you are unfounded and/or the PFA is unnecessary. The judge will then decide whether to dismiss the temporary PFA, allow it to expire, or convert it to a final PFA lasting a maximum of 3 years.
If Someone Runs a Criminal Background Check on Me, Will the PFA Show Up?
Thankfully, no. Criminal background checks only show criminal convictions, and a PFA is a civil action, not a criminal matter. However, if you are convicted of criminal contempt for violating a PFA, that conviction will show up in a background check. You should also be advised that the PFA will show up in court records even after the PFA expires, and these records are typically available upon request. So, while a public record of your PFA won't be easily discovered, anyone who is looking for this type of information could find it.
How a PFA Could Jeopardize Your Chiropractor's License
The existence of a PFA against you could potentially impact your ability to practice as a chiropractor in Pennsylvania. The State Board of Chiropractic holds its licensees to high standards of professionalism and ethics, and it may impose disciplinary action when it believes a person has violated the public trust or committed a crime of moral turpitude. Even if you're never formally charged with a crime, the PFA still suggests that someone saw you as a threat—and that the court at some point agreed. Thus, a PFA could trigger an investigation that, at worst, could result in you losing your license to practice.
Here are a few ways that the State Board of Chiropractic could become aware of a PFA against you:
- A formal complaint may be filed against you by anybody who is aware of the PFA, including a client, coworker, or other individual
- If you are found guilty of criminal contempt for violating the PFA, the court may notify the licensing board
- The licensing board may access court records as part of a separate investigation, and they could discover the PFA that way
Steps to Protect your Chiropractor's License if Served with a PFA
Your best option for keeping a PFA from raising issues with the Board of Chiropractic is to fight the PFA with the assistance of a skilled lawyer. Here are some practical ways to minimize the threat:
- You can contest the temporary PFA during the final PFA hearing. If you can convince the judge not to issue a final PFA, the chances are greatly reduced that it will trigger any action from the board.
- Petition to have your temporary PFA removed from court records. While final PFAs will remain permanently in court records even after they expire, you can petition the court to remove a temporary PFA from the record if it was dismissed or withdrawn. Removing this mention of the PFA gives you an added layer of protection.
- Appeal the final PFA. If your PFA is finalized, you can still file a Motion to Reconsider within ten days or appeal your case to the Pennsylvania Superior Court within 30 days. If your appeal succeeds and the PFA is vacated, it reduces the chance that the PFA will raise red flags with the board.
What to Do if the Licensing Board Takes Action
If the Board of Chiropractic does launch an investigation over a PFA, hiring an attorney who is experienced in defending professional licenses can greatly improve your chances for a favorable outcome by presenting evidence and arguments to demonstrate that the PFA was unfounded and/or has no bearing on your ability to practice. In many cases, this intervention can prevent you from losing your license and minimize any other disciplinary consequences. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has successfully helped many Pennsylvanians with PFA issues, and he has additional experience in professional license defense. If you're a chiropractor served with a PFA, call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to see how we can help.