On June 1, Matthew Torres made a bad decision. The 34 year-old man from York allegedly violated his Protection from Abuse (PFA) orders by stalking his accuser at her home. He also reportedly fired a gunshot. This came at the tail end of a night in which Torres had been calling the victim repeatedly.
Though no one was injured during the incident, Torres now faces two misdemeanor charges — turning his civil PFA case into one with criminal consequences. This truly is the last thing you want to do with a PFA case.
Civil vs. Criminal
Abuse is taken very seriously in Pennsylvania. In an effort to get people out of bad situations quickly, PFA orders are issued with limited evidence outside of the accuser's testimony. They are also issued civilly. There is no investigation, which means that being served with a PFA is not a prison sentence. As long as you carefully obey the instructions, you should be able to avoid criminal charges.
Violating the PFA is where matters turn criminal. You can be arrested for any minor violation of the order's instructions. You can even be arrested if you violate the PFA on accident. The only evidence needed for an arrest is a credible accusation from the plaintiff.
This is why it's discouraging to see stories like Matthew Torres's. Stalking is a criminal act, of course, but that isn't the only place he went wrong. Even the simple act of calling the victim constitutes a violation of the PFA and can lead to heavy fines and months in jail. All of that could have been avoided.
How to Handle a PFA
It can be difficult to remain calm after you have been served with a PFA order, even if you think it was issued unfairly. You may feel angry or hurt. You may feel the urge to contact your accuser and demand answers: Why is this happening?
It is imperative that you resist urges like this. A PFA order is hard to deal with, but it's a lot more manageable when you aren't serving jail time.
There's only one thing to do with a PFA order: comply. Don't reach out to your accuser or anyone else named in the PFA. Within a couple of weeks, you will get the chance to defend yourself at a hearing. There are ways to make your case. Until then, follow the instructions of the order like your future depends on it — because it might. Consider hiring a PFA lawyer to ensure you are treated fairly, and your case receives the best possible outcome.
The Lento Law Firm Can Help
Experienced PFA attorney Joseph D. Lento has spent years working with clients to successfully navigate their PFA orders. Whether you have violated your PFA and are facing criminal charges, or if you have just been served and have questions, attorney Joseph D. Lento and his expert team are here to assist your case.
Contact the Lento Law Firm online or by calling 888-535-3686.