Pennsylvania's civil remedy for abuse is a protection from abuse (PFA) order, also known as a restraining order. It's designed to deter different forms of abuse, or the fear of this abuse, towards an individual and/or children within personal relationships. Its terms prohibit all contact between a perpetrator and victim, which depending on the circumstances, could be incredibly strict or more lenient than most, based on a victim's specific needs. Since a PFA is an official court order, defendants are expected to comply with all of its regulations. A violation of any of its terms could potentially lead to criminal penalties.
PFAs are generally served after physical abuse has been established in a petition to the court. The majority of the time, victims who've been subjected to mistreatment like hitting, slapping, kicking and shoving provide proof that they were attacked. But now, as verbal abuse is deemed equally dangerous, the number of PFAs petitioned that allege verbal abuse have grown. And in many of these cases, a PFA is awarded.
The circumstances in which a PFA can be brought includes a reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury. As long as the verbal abuse reasonably causes a victim to believe that they could be in serious danger, a PFA is warranted. For example, if a victim accuses a perpetrator of saying “I am going to kill you,” or “I will beat you up,” these words could invoke fear of harm. But words sometimes aren't enough. Depending on the judge's discretion, the context in which the words were said, what prompted them, and a potential history of abuse may be considered to determine if this fear is “reasonable.”
The effectiveness of PFAs is unquestionable. But as with every system, concerns of abuse are valid. These orders have the potential to disrupt the entire course of a person's life, calling for an alleged perpetrator's eviction from residence, modifications in their daily schedule, being placed on a sexual offender registry, or being fired from their place of employment. If it's enforced on improper grounds, this disruption could be completely unwarranted.
State law doesn't necessarily specify the expungement process when it comes to eradicating a PFA order. But the rules are much more lenient in comparison to other criminal matters. As of now, it's only possible for a temporary PFA to be expunged from public record, rather than permanent ones. Seek an attorney to talk about your options.
Philadelphia PFA Attorney | Pennsylvania PFA Expungement Attorney
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.