Protective orders are available for crime victims even if criminal charges are not filed. One type of protective order that is available is a protection from abuse order. These orders became possible upon the enactment of the Protection from Abuse Act which was passed in Pennsylvania in 1990. These orders are available to petitioners who are in a domestic or family relationship with the alleged abuser. These orders can restrain contact as well as several other actions by the defendant.
Protection from abuse cases process in a matter of days. This means that a defendant must prepare an appropriate defense in a matter of days as well. As you can see, protection from abuse cases need your immediate and full attention. If you are the defendant a protection from abuse petition, then make sure you get in contact with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.
What is a Protection from Abuse Order?
A protection from abuse (PFA) order is a protective order that can be granted independent of any criminal case. This means that a victim can get court protection without the need to go through a criminal investigation and proceeding. The person seeking a protection from abuse order must be in a domestic or family relationship with the alleged abuser.
Physical abuse or sexual violence must be alleged by the petitioner to be eligible for a protection from abuse order. If the judge finds that a protection from abuse order is necessary, then the provisions of the order must be followed, or the defendant is subject to arrest and criminal charges.
What are the Different Types of Protection from Abuse Orders?
There are two types of protection from abuse orders that a judge can authorize: temporary protection from abuse orders and final protection from abuse orders. These orders have the same level of authority but are processed and viewed differently. They are explained below:
Temporary Protection from Abuse
The first type of protection from abuse order that someone can get is a temporary protection from abuse. These orders are processed quickly and are intended to make it easier for someone to ask the court for protection.
If you are seeking a protective order, then you are called the petitioner. If you are the person being accused of abuse or sexual violence, then you are called the defendant. Petitioners are required to prove to the judge why a protective order is needed and must give detailed facts to do so. It is common for a judge in these cases to ask a lot of questions to decide if a temporary protection from abuse order should be authorized.
Hearings for temporary protection from abuse orders are scheduled after a petition is filed by a petitioner. These hearings include only the judge and the petitioner. The defendant is not allowed to be present or heard at these hearings. The defendant also cannot hire a lawyer to represent them at this hearing.
At this hearing, the petitioner must convince the judge that the defendant is responsible for the abuse or sexual violence. If the petitioner does so, then the judge can order a protection from abuse to ensure safety with continual protection. Temporary protection from abuse orders are effective immediately.
The other type of protection from abuse orders are final protection from abuse orders. The hearing to determine whether a final order should be granted is normally scheduled within ten days of the temporary order being filed. Final protection from abuse order hearings are not private and allow both sides to participate and present their cases.
Final Protection from Abuse
Final protection from abuse hearings are much more even and fair than temporary protection from abuse hearings. These hearings are conducted in front of all parties in open court. In these cases, the judge has the ultimate authority over any legal rulings in the case and over what the final verdict is. There are no juries available to defendants in protection from abuse cases. Final protection from abuse hearings are essentially bench trials that decide protective orders.
Final protection from abuse hearings must follow the Pennsylvania rules of evidence as well as the rules of court. All testimony that is given in these hearings is given under oath and is recorded. These recordings can be later turned into a verified transcript that can be used in other legal matters. It is important that anyone that testifies at one of these hearings understands the potential legal ramifications and how their testimony can be later used against them.
In a final protection from abuse hearing, the petitioner has the responsibility (known as burden of proof) to prove that a final protection from abuse order is warranted. The defendant in these cases does not have to put on a defense but may do so if he or she wishes. If the petitioner proves by the preponderance of the evidence that abuse or sexual violence occurred against them by the defendant, then the court can authorize a final protection from abuse order. This order can give continued protection and can last for up to three years. This order can also be renewed an infinite number of times as the court sees fit to protect the petitioner.
What Can a Final Protection of Abuse Order Restrain?
Final protection from abuse orders have the authority to restrain a lot of conduct and activity of the defendant. This authority comes with the threat of law enforcement taking the defendant into custody if orders aren't followed. Some examples of restraints from a final protection from abuse order include:
- No aggressive or harassing behavior
- No living with anyone named in the order
- Child custody
- Losing Second Amendment rights while the order is in place
- No contact with anyone named in the order
All child custody rulings made in final protection from abuse orders are temporary and can be reviewed by a different judge at a later date to determine long-term orders.
Who Can Seek a Protection from Abuse Order?
You must be in a qualifying domestic relationship with the person you are seeking an order against. Qualifying domestic relationships are intimate or family relationships, and examples include current or former marriages, dating partners, sexual partners, or family members that live together. The petitioner in a protection from abuse case must allege abuse or sexual violence against the defendant for an order to be granted. Protection from abuse orders are not available for people seeking orders against coworkers, acquaintances, or neighbors as these relationships are not domestic. If a minor wants to file a petition, then an adult must do so for them.
How Protections from Abuse Are Filed in Adams County
If someone lives in Adams County and wants a PFA, then their petition must be filed at the Adams County Court of Common Pleas in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. More specifically, the petition must be filed with the Prothonotary's Office. The Court's physical address is:
117 Baltimore Street, 4th Floor
Gettysburg, PA 17325
Adams County offers a 24-hour hotline for abuse victims to call for advice from a Safe Home advocate. Safe Home is a victim's center and victim services organization. The advocates at Safe Home can be reached at (717) 632-0007.
Petitioners in Adams County must complete a lengthy petition which consists of 15 questions. Once the petitioner completes and files his or her petition, then he or she can go before the judge to seek a protective order.
What Happens if Someone Violates a Protection from Abuse Order?
Protection from abuse orders are civil in nature. Violations of protection from abuse orders are criminal in nature. If someone is accused of violating a protection from abuse order provision, then that person can face up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine if they are found guilty of the violation. A defendant can contest the violation in a hearing that takes place within ten days of the defendant's arrest. There is no right to a jury at this hearing, and the final decision will be made by the judge. If you are being accused of violating a protection from abuse order, then it is important to act quickly to prepare your defense. For legal questions, call us at the Lento Law Firm!
Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
If you have questions about protection from abuse orders in Adams County, then make sure you speak to an experienced attorney. It is important you understand how a protection from abuse order can affect you. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have the experience that you need to help put you in the best position to defend your case. To learn why the Lento Law Firm is the right choice, call at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.