Being served with a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) in Pennsylvania can be highly disruptive to your life, whether or not the order is warranted. You could be barred from contact with your significant other, you may be forced from your home, you may have to change your daily routine, and if you share children with your accuser, your custody rights could even be affected. But beyond these things, a PFA can have other unexpected repercussions, even extending to your career. If you're a licensed esthetician in Pennsylvania, your livelihood basically hinges on your professional license; but if the PFA triggers an investigation into your license by the Pennsylvania State Board of Cosmetology, you could face disciplinary action and possibly the loss of your license.
Fortunately, if you are proactive in fighting the PFA with the help of a skilled Pennsylvania defense attorney, you may be able to avoid negative repercussions to your livelihood. The Lento Law Firm has compiled the following important information, so you know how to respond when being served with a PFA.
How PFAs Work in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) is a legal order that allows individuals to seek the government's protection from their alleged abusers in instances of abuse, intimidation, stalking, and other threatening situations. A PFA forbids the defendant (respondent) from interacting with the petitioner (or plaintiff). A petitioner can be your spouse, domestic partner, dating partner, cohabitant, or other family member. You don't have to be convicted of a crime to have a PFA against you; the judge only needs to be convinced that you pose a threat to the petitioner.
The first stage in obtaining an order for protection is the request for a temporary PFA, which, if granted by the court, takes effect immediately and without the defendant's participation. The temporary PFA stays in effect for up to 10 working days, pending a formal hearing to decide whether the PFA should be finalized. When you're served with the temporary PFA, you'll be notified of the date and time to appear at the hearing. This is your opportunity to dispute the PFA. You can bring legal representation, call witnesses, and present evidence to support your side of the story. If you and your attorney can convince the judge that the PFA is unnecessary or should not have been issued, the judge will dismiss the temporary PFA or simply allow it to expire. If not, the judge will issue a final PFA, which stays in effect for up to 3 years. If you violate the terms of the PFA, even incidentally, you may be arrested and charged with criminal contempt--punishable by up to 6 months in jail.
Will My PFA Appear on a Criminal Background Check?
No, it won't. A PFA is a civil action, so it won't show up in criminal background checks. However, PFAs do show up in public court records, and anyone who searches these records, may discover your PFA. Likewise, if you are convicted of violating the PFA, the conviction will generate a criminal record which will show up on background checks.
How a PFA Could Jeopardize Your Esthetician's License
The existence of a PFA could have a negative impact on your ability to practice as an esthetician in Pennsylvania, even if no criminal charges were ever filed. If the State Board of Cosmetology becomes aware of the PFA and views it as a violation of its policies, it could trigger an investigation that could ultimately lead to disciplinary action--up to and including the revocation of your esthetician's license.
Here are a few ways that the State Board of Cosmetology could be alerted to your PFA:
- A client, colleague, or another person who is aware of the PFA could file a complaint to the board
- If you are convicted of criminal contempt for violating the PFA, the court may report this to the licensing board
- The licensing board may review court records, possibly as part of another investigation, and they could discover the PFA
What Can I Do To Reduce the Risk to My Esthetician's License if I Am Served With a PFA?
By taking a proactive approach to fighting the PFA with the help of a skilled attorney, you can greatly reduce the chances that the PFA will raise concerns with the licensing board. Here are some steps you can take:
- Contest the temporary PFA at the final PFA hearing. If you can show that the PFA is unjust or should not have been granted, the judge may rescind it without finalizing it. This will minimize the chance of the board being notified.
- Petition to have your temporary PFA expunged from court records. Once a PFA is finalized, it cannot be expunged from court records. However, a temporary PFA may be expunged if it was dismissed or withdrawn. Your attorney can help coordinate this request with the courts.
- Appeal the PFA. If the PFA is finalized, you may still be able to overturn it by filing a Motion to Reconsider or filing an official appeal to the Superior Court.
How to Respond if a PFA Threatens Your Esthetician's License
If the board raises concerns or begins an inquiry, hiring an attorney with expertise in defending professional licenses is your best bet for avoiding significant damage to your career. The attorney can assist you through the investigation procedure, represent you before the board, and offer evidence and arguments to show that your ability to practice as an esthetician is not affected by the PFA. This could greatly improve your chances for a favorable outcome and save you from losing your license.
If you have a PFA filed against you, your best option for preventing serious repercussions to your life and your career as an esthetician. Joseph D. Lento is a Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer with additional experience in professional licensing defense. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to see how we can help.