We've all heard about protective orders and how they can safeguard victims of domestic violence. But what happens when the alleged victim can't seek an order for themselves? What if the accusations of domestic violence involve someone who is mentally incapacitated or otherwise can't help themself? In these cases, Protection from Abuse orders are possible for those who can't seek an order themselves, as a recent Pennsylvania case demonstrates.
Man Locks Himself in Ex-Wife's Bedroom
The Court of Common Pleas declared an elderly Pennsylvania woman incapacitated due to her mental state after someone contacted the Montgomery County Office on Aging. The court appointed a legal guardian to see after the woman's welfare. After the woman's ex-husband kept entering her home without permission, her legal guardian sought a PFA against him in District Court.
On May 23, 2022, police served the ex-husband with the PFA, preventing him from contacting his ex-wife or entering her home. According to the police, his attorney explained the PFA conditions to him. He then attended a hearing regarding prior trespassing charges at his ex-wife's home, and the judge again repeated that he wasn't to go near his ex-wife. Three hours after the hearing, the police arrested him at his ex-wife's home again, discovering him locked inside her bedroom. He now faces charges for violating the PFA and trespassing.
Pennsylvania Protection From Abuse Orders
In 1990, the Pennsylvania legislature passed the Protection from Abuse Act, which allows victims of domestic violence to seek a court order of protection or “Protection from Abuse” order (PFA). PFAs are sometimes known as restraining or protective orders. In Pennsylvania, someone seeking a PFA will typically complete an application and appear before a judge in an ex parte hearing, meaning the defendant won't be present. If the judge believes a protection order is necessary, they will issue a temporary order and set a date for a final hearing.
A guardian or other person may apply for a PFA on someone else's behalf if the petitioner cannot do so. Under Pennsylvania's Protection from Abuse Act, an adult or emancipated minor can seek a PFA on behalf of a parent or household member. A guardian ad litem may also seek a PFA on behalf of a minor child, and a guardian may seek one on behalf of an incompetent adult. The guardian will file the petition alleging abuse with the court on their ward.
Violating a PFA
It's important to note that while a PFA is a civil court order, violating it is a crime. If you violate the terms of a PFA, you could face arrest, criminal charges, and jail time. That's why it's essential to ensure you have an attorney representing you in any PFA action against you.
You Need an Experienced Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Attorney
If you're facing a protection from abuse order or accusations of domestic violence, you need a skilled Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the lawyers at the Lento Law Firm have helped many Pennsylvania clients navigate protection from abuse hearings. They can help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm online or give them a call at (888) 535-3686 to set up a consultation.