If you are a UCC-certified plumbing inspector in the State of Pennsylvania, your job relies heavily on public trust to make sure plumbing is safe and up to code. Unfortunately, that public trust may sometimes become eroded by things that have nothing to do with your ability to do your job. If you have been issued a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA), for example, your certification could technically be at risk. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry holds certified professionals to high standards, and a PFA could potentially cause them to investigate and possibly revoke your UCC certificate. While the risk of this happening is relatively low, it is still a risk.
Fortunately, by responding proactively to a PFA with the help of an experienced attorney, you can reduce the risk that the PFA will cause a problem where your career is concerned. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many defendants successfully navigate complex issues surrounding PFAs and other issues with domestic violence cases. Let's discuss PFAs and their possible impact on a plumber's certification in particular.
Overview of Protection From Abuse Orders
In Pennsylvania, a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) is a civil order that protects domestic violence victims from their alleged abusers. If a spouse, domestic partner, or another live-in relative obtains a PFA against you, you will be barred from contact with that person. You may have to move out of your house and change your daily routine to avoid contact with them. Your custody and visitation rights could be affected. And if you violate the PFA in any way, you could be charged with criminal contempt and sentenced to up to six months in jail if convicted.
The burden of proof for obtaining a PFA is quite low--in fact, you don't even have to be charged with a crime for one to be issued. The judge must simply be convinced that you pose a threat to the safety and security of the petitioner.
The judge will start by issuing a temporary PFA in most cases. This is effective immediately and can last for up to ten working days before a hearing can take place. You will have the opportunity to appear with your attorney at the hearing and challenge the validity of the PFA. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will decide whether to allow the temporary PFA to expire or issue a final PFA. If it's the latter, the final PFA stays in effect for up to three years.
Can a PFA Appear on Criminal Background Checks?
No. A PFA is a civil action, not a criminal one, so it doesn't show up on most background checks. However, if you violate the PFA and are convicted of criminal contempt, the conviction WILL show up on a background check. Additionally, PFAs are noted in court records which are accessible to the public upon a reasonable request. So, although the PFA isn't likely just to "show up" in checks concerning you, someone who is actively looking for the PFA may be able to find it.
What Could a PFA Do to My Plumbing Inspector Certification?
While there may not seem to be any correlation between a PFA and your job as a plumbing inspector, the Department of Labor and Industry may not see it that way. The Pennsylvania Code gives the Department the authority to de-certify inspectors if they act "in a manner presenting a danger to the public health and safety." Even though you may not be charged with any crime, the existence of the PFA suggests that at least one person considered you to be a threat to their safety, backed by the authority of a judge. This could trigger a Department investigation which could potentially lead to your UCC certificate being revoked.
While the Department will not necessarily look actively for any negative information about you, they may be alerted to the existence of a PFA if:
- A formal complaint is filed against you by someone mentioning the PFA
- You are convicted of violating the PFA
- They happen to conduct a search of court documents and find the PFA
Protecting Your UCC Certification if You Have a PFA Against You
It's unwise to assume that a PFA could not come back to endanger your career as a UCC-certified plumbing inspector. Taking a proactive approach with the help of an experienced Pennsylvania PFA attorney can greatly reduce your risks. The following strategies may be helpful:
- Successfully challenge the temporary PFA at the hearing. If you prevail on the judge by showing that the PFA is unnecessary and inappropriate, you may be able to keep it from being finalized, which reduces your risk immensely.
- Petition to delete the temporary PFA from court records. If your temporary PFA was withdrawn or dismissed before it was finalized, Pennsylvania law allows you to petition for the permanent PFA to be removed from court records. (If it has been converted to a final PFA, it will remain on record indefinitely.)
- Appeal the final PFA. You can appeal the final PFA to be overturned if the judge issued it incorrectly or in violation of the law.
- Respond directly to the Department's concerns. If the Department discovers the PFA and raises concerns about it, a skilled professional license defense attorney can intervene on your behalf. If your lawyer can convince them that the PFA was not necessary and/or doesn't make you a danger to public safety, you may be able to avoid losing your UCC certification.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience with both PFAs and professional licensing issues. If you're a certified plumbing inspector dealing with a PFA, take steps now to protect your career. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to see how we can help.