A Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) can make your life difficult in many ways. You could lose contact with your partner or spouse, lose your visitation or custody rights, be forced from your home, and more. However, the consequences of a PFA can extend long past the immediate issues, even so far as endangering your career. If you are a licensed real estate professional in Pennsylvania, you need to be prepared for the possibility that the Pennsylvania State Real Estate Commission could take disciplinary action against your license in response to a PFA—possibly even revoking it.
You have worked hard to build a successful career in real estate, but your livelihood depends on your real estate license. If that license is jeopardized over a PFA, even one that is unfounded, your career could hang in the balance. What can you do to protect your interests? How can you respond if the Real Estate Commission raises concerns?
By being proactive in response to a PFA, you can take steps to safeguard your career as you deal with the other fallout. To help you understand the situation and take steps to protect your real-estate license, the Lento Law Firm has provided the following critical information.
About PFAs in Pennsylvania
A Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) is a civil order designed to offer legal protection for victims of domestic violence, harassment, and related crimes. The person requesting protection is the petitioner, and the alleged perpetrator is the respondent. No crime needs to have been committed for the court to issue a PFA against you; the judge just needs to be convinced that you pose a danger to the petitioner.
In most cases, the judge begins by issuing a temporary FFA, which is effective immediately for up to 10 days. This temporary measure prohibits you from making contact with the petitioner until a hearing can be scheduled for both sides to present their case. This hearing is your chance to contest the PFA and share your side of the story, and having an experienced attorney in your corner can greatly improve your chance of a successful outcome. If you prevail in your arguments, the judge will dismiss the temporary PFA; if the petitioner prevails, the judge will issue a final PFA, which will last up to 3 years.
Am I in Danger of a PFA Showing up in Criminal Records Checks?
A PFA is not a criminal conviction; it is a civil judgment, and it does not show up on criminal background checks. That said, any violation of the PFA, no matter how slight, could result in criminal charges against you. If you're convicted of criminal contempt, not only could you face up to 6 months in jail, but that conviction will appear in criminal records checks.
How Could a PFA Result in Disciplinary Action Against My License by the Real Estate Commission?
While your PFA won't show up in routine background checks, the Real Estate Commission can still be alerted to it in a number of ways. For example:
- Someone who is aware of the PFA (e.g., a colleague or the petitioner) could file a complaint directly with the Commission
- The PFA will be visible in court records, and if the Commission searches those records for any reason, they may see the PFA
- If you're convicted of violating the PFA, the resulting criminal record will most likely be reported to the board
While a PFA is not directly related to your ability to sell real estate, the Real Estate Commission has established codes of conduct and professionalism, and the existence of a PFA suggests that perhaps those rules have been violated. This could trigger an investigation into your license. If the board believes wrongdoing has occurred, it may decide to take disciplinary action, which at best might be a fine or a formal reprimand--but at worst could be a rescinding of your real estate license.
How Can I Protect My Real Estate License if a PFA Is Issued Against Me?
With the help of an experienced defense attorney, you can take the following steps to minimize the risk to your real estate license in the event a Protection from Abuse Order is filed against you:
- Contest the temporary PFA at the hearing to keep it from becoming a final PFA. If you and your attorney can show why the PFA should not have been issued, the temporary PFA may be dismissed without being finalized. This won't necessarily prevent the PFA from appearing in court records, but if the Real Estate Commission raises concerns, it's easier to defend against a PFA that is no longer in effect than one that is active.
- Appeal the final PFA. If you can show that the judge made an error in issuing the final PFA, you may submit a Motion To Reconsider or Appeal the PFA directly to Superior Court in an effort to have it vacated.
- Petition for an expungement of the PFA from court records. You can only make this request if the order was a temporary PFA that was dismissed or withdrawn before it was made final.
- Address any concerns with the Real Estate Commission directly. If the Commission expresses concerns or notifies you of an investigation, your cooperation is key. Your best strategy is to hire an attorney with experience in professional license defense who can present your side of the story and negotiate with the board for leniency.
If you're a real estate professional who is served with PFA in Pennsylvania, you can't afford to be passive in your response. You can significantly lower the danger to your professional license if you act quickly with the aid of a qualified Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney. Joseph D. Lento has considerable expertise in dealing with PFAs, and he also has substantial experience in defending professional licenses. Contact the Lento Law firm at 888-535-3686 today to discuss your options.