In the state of Pennsylvania, false allegations of domestic violence can have serious consequences. The accused can face criminal charges and the alleged abused party can file a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order in family court. Even if you think you are not guilty, the complainant can seek order and you should obey its terms. The order will be made by a court temporarily until it can have a hearing on the merits. And if the court rules against you, the order will take effect permanently. Thankfully, a skilled Pennsylvania protection from abuse defense lawyer can help you clear your name.
A judge can issue a temporary PFA order based only on the allegation that the petitioner made without your presence. So, you need an attorney to prevent this order from becoming a permanent one and have it lifted. Your lawyer will challenge the issuance of the order at each step of the proceeding to fight for your rights.
The PFA Process
Domestic abuse allegations usually result in litigation in family court when a party seeks a PFA order. Often, the complaint can be a family member or romantic partner. The order is often sought in emergency situations, so it is often issued on a temporary basis. The petitioner will usually have the police serve the order to the defendant. When the defendant receives the order, they should not contact the defendant to avoid an arrest or a contempt charge. Contempt of court can result in a criminal conviction and incarceration.
After issuing a temporary PFA order, a family court will hold a hearing on whether they should enter a permanent PFA order. At this hearing, the petitioner must show you committed some kind of abuse, which often means you acted violently that made the petition feel threatened, making the protecting order necessary. A judge may issue a permanent PFA order if they find that abuse has happened and the abused needs a protection order.
What to Expect at a PFA Hearing?
A hearing on the possible issuance of a permanent PFA order is like a criminal trial; however, you have fewer procedural protections. You and the plaintiff may have your respect attorney. You will be under oath and can testify. Also, both parties may present evidence and witnesses.
However, there are also significant differences. First, the hearing does not have a discovery process. Thus, you may only be aware of the initial petition alleges and won’t get any evidence as you would in a criminal trial. Also, the judges in a permanent PFA trial are more flexible on letting parties introduce documents such as medical records and text messages without authentication requirements.