What Proof Is Needed For A Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Dec 18, 2018 | 0 Comments

Issuing a protection from abuse (PFA) order is similar to other processes. The filing party, or the “petitioner,” is responsible for filling out the appropriate paperwork, attending a hearing about their case, and then waiting for the judge to come up with a verdict. Most people understand that the decision of whether or not a PFA order is necessary is left up to the discretion of the court. But the details, like how a judge ultimately comes up with this decision and what must be proven, is rarely discussed.

To completely understand what evidence must be established to warrant a PFA order, one must understand its intended purpose. It's essentially a preventative measure to protect victims from threats and potential violence. One of the only ways to cease dangerous behavior is to order an alleged offender to keep their distance from targets and prohibit contact. But before a court can legally issue this order, it must be proven that there is a reasonable fear of danger. This is usually established when there's viable proof that physical, and even sometimes emotional abuse is occurring.

All evidence in a PFA hearing is evaluated based on a standard of evidence. In these cases, a petitioner must prove the allegations by a “preponderance of evidence” - a standard much lower than what is used for criminal cases (beyond a reasonable doubt). Due to the preponderance standard, all evidence in a hearing solely requires that the allegations more likely than not occurred.

In these hearings, it's natural for a defendant to want to present their own account of the incident by presenting information and evidence, but it's not a requirement. Depending on a defendant's circumstances, defendants are often encouraged to participate to give a judge more perspective and context of an incident. However, not presenting won't guarantee an unfavorable verdict for defendants. If a judge doesn't believe what the petitioner says, the defendant will prevail without putting forth any evidence. But it isn't wise to leave these things up to fate. If you believe that a PFA order is unwarranted in your case, you should fight to make sure your voice is heard.

After hearing all evidence, the judge will make a decision to either issue a full PFA order or dismiss the petition. If the order is granted, the offender will be prohibited from contacting a plaintiff for up to one year. This could include a move from a shared residency with a victim, work accommodations and more changes, depending on just how interlinked the lives of a defendant and petitioner are.

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Individuals who go to a hearing and lose will have to live with details of their alleged abuse being accessible to employers, the military, and anyone who has access to public records on the internet. It is strongly recommended that you seek experienced and skilled legal counsel to help you effectively defend PFA actions. Knowledgeable attorney Joseph D. Lento has years of experience helping individuals who have been in your shoes. Contact him today for help.

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Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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