Abuse or Reasonable Fear of Imminent Serious Injury. The basic grounds triggering the right to petition for a PFA order is that the plaintiff has suffered abuse or reasonably fears imminent serious bodily injury. The Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act's Section 6102(a) defines abuse to include any of the following acts involving a qualifying plaintiff:
- attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, or incest with or without a deadly weapon
- placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury
- the infliction of false imprisonment as Pennsylvania's criminal code defines it
- physically or sexually abusing minor children
- knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, placing the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury
The Relative Ease of Proving PFA Grounds. Those who face PFA proceedings are generally familiar with the high beyond a reasonable doubt burden that prosecutors have to prove criminal charges. Proving grounds for a PFA order is much, much easier for a plaintiff than for a prosecutor proving criminal charges. Under the Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act's Section 6107(a), the plaintiff “must prove the allegation of abuse by a preponderance of the evidence.” The preponderance of the evidencestandard is the same standard the courts use for most civil claims like breach of contract or negligence. All the PFA plaintiff needs to do is to show that the plaintiff has evidence outweighing the defendant's evidence, making proof of the PFA grounds more probable than not. That low proof burden means that if you face a PFA proceeding, then you need the best available representation to avoid an unjust and harsh PFA order. Retain Pennsylvania PFA defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the expert team at the Lento Law Firm. When you need the best, hire the best.
Physical Violence Is Not Required. Although the grounds for a PFA order clearly include several forms of violence leading to physical injury, the plaintiff seeking a PFA order need not necessarily prove physical injury. Judges can issue PFA orders for threats that have not yet resulted in actual physical abuse. Under the definitions of abuse in the Act's Section 6102(a), reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury is enough. Thus, for example, if the plaintiff proves that the defendant combined threats to kill or seriously injure with actions and circumstances indicating reasonable fear that death or serious injury could imminently result, then the court could issue the PFA order even absent any actual physical violence. Words alone may not be enough, but words combined with actions and circumstances, including, for example, the defendant's history of physical violence, may well be enough. Don't think that you can defeat a PFA request simply by proving that you never struck anyone. Take seriously any claim for abuse or threats of abuse by retaining expert PFA defense representation.
Grounds May Alternatively Involve Children. The plaintiff need not even prove that the abuse or threats of abuse are against the plaintiff. Proof of abuse or threats against the parties' minor children can also form the grounds for a PFA order, even if the plaintiff faced no such abuse or threats. Minor children do not represent themselves in court. Minor children lack the capacity to stand on their own as parties in legal proceedings. They instead need representation as parties. Parents or guardians pursue the legal rights of children in the parent or guardian's own name but on the child's behalf. Child abuse or threats of child abuse are very serious claims. If you face a PFA proceeding in which the plaintiff faced no abuse or threat but instead represents minor children, then you should take the PFA proceeding especially seriously. You need the best available representation.
Who May Claim PFA Grounds. Proving abuse or reasonable fear of abuse is not alone enough. The Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act's Section 6102(a) defines abuse to include only “acts between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners, or persons who share biological parenthood.” The plaintiff must therefore also show that the plaintiff is an adult family or household member or adult guardian on behalf of a minor child, and related by blood, marriage, parentage over biological children, or current or former intimate partner. That status, though, is broader than you may think. It can include not only a spouse or minor children but also live-in parents, in-laws, siblings, current or former intimate partners, whether sexually intimate or not, and anyone sharing biological parentage of your minor children.
Get Premier PFA Attorney's Representation. Proving the grounds for a PFA order can be tricky. Under the relaxed preponderance proof burden, contesting grounds for a PFA order can be even more difficult. PFA proceedings require skilled, aggressive, and effective representation from an experienced Pennsylvania PFA attorney. Contact the Lento Law Firm by calling 888.535.3686 or online to consult with expert Pennsylvania PFA defense attorney Joseph D. Lento. Act now before it's too late. Attorney Lento is available for your call.