Punxsy High School Principal, Paul Hetrick, was arrested four times for DUI-related charges and violation of a protection from abuse order (PFA). Although the details of the PFA order were not released to the public, Hetrick now faces serious criminal charges. The Punxsutawney Area School Board held a meeting on January 5, 2023, to discuss the necessary policies and procedures regarding how to address the situation. The school board has not yet released the findings from that hearing, but the situation raises important discussions about the criminal and personal consequences that can result from a PFA charge.
What Is a PFA Order
A PFA order is a court order most commonly associated with domestic violence instances. Pennsylvania law permits the courts to impose a PFA against anyone who has suffered abuse, including physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse. Typically the order requires that the alleged perpetrator stay a certain distance away from the alleged victim, not contact the victim, etc.
Penalties for Violating a PFA Order
Violating a PFA order can carry significant criminal charges and penalties. While there is no specific statutory “crime” for violating a PFA, the defendant will be charged with criminal contempt for violating a court order. In Pennsylvania, criminal contempt charges can carry upwards to 6 months in prison or fines of up to $1,000.00.
Aside from criminal consequences, the Punxy High School story serves as s perfect example that criminal charges can have a rippling effect on the rest of a defendant's life, resulting in serious reputational harm and consequences for their career, family or even immigration status. Criminal charges can easily affect child custody proceedings or immigration status and should not be taken lightly.
A Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
While criminal defendants facing a contempt of court charge may feel helpless, it is crucial to remember that every criminal case is unique and turns on the unique facts at hand. A qualified criminal defense attorney can present several defenses that can help mitigate your criminal consequences or even dismiss the charge completely.
For instance, an attorney can argue that the PFA petition was filed out of malicious intent, to begin with. In other words, although you may have technically violated the order, there was no basis for the order to begin with. This can occur in situations where the alleged victim, such as an ex-spouse or ex-partner, is acting out of spite or with a deceitful intent to annoy or harass you.
An attorney can also argue that a criminal defendant didn't actually violate the order at all, showing no evidence that they attempted to contact the protected person, went to their residence, etc. Again, every case is unique, and the possible defenses may be numerous depending on the facts at play.
Pennsylvania PFA Defense Attorney
If you or someone you know has been accused of violating a PFA, the ramifications can be devastating and life-altering. Your best chance at proving your innocence or defending your actions is to ensure that you have an experienced attorney fighting for you in and out of court. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Team have experience successfully defending PFA filings and working with law enforcement agencies to mitigate possible charges. Call us today at 888-535-3686 or use our online form.