Protection From Abuse (PFA) Defense
In Pennsylvania, the Protection from Abuse Act allows for someone to ask a judge to enter a protection from abuse order against someone that committed abuse. Unfortunately, this Act is sometimes used as a tactic to gain the upper hand in a custody proceeding or to harass or annoy a former partner. A PFA is a civil remedy, not criminal. This means that the standard of proof in a PFA Hearing is much lower than in a criminal proceeding. At Bononi and Company, our Defense Team knows how to represent those wrongfully accused of abuse.
What is Considered “Abuse?”
The PFA Act defines abuse in five ways:
- 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 pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 2903 (relating to false imprisonment).
- Physically or sexually abusing minor children, including such terms as defined in Chapter 63 (relating to child protective services).
- Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. The definition of this paragraph applies only to proceedings commenced under this title and is inapplicable to any criminal prosecutions commenced under Title 18 (relating to crimes and offenses).
See 23 PA.C.S.§ 6102
Do I Need an Attorney to Defend Against a PFA
The burden of proof in a PFA case is on the Petitioner, the person who filed the PFA. That being the case, the burden of proof is not a very high standard. To prove their case, the Petitioner has to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that abuse occurred. This means that the evidence they present has to be “more likely than not” true. This is the lowest standard of proof. Having an attorney that handles PFA Defense by your side will help ensure that both sides are heard and the judge is able to consider all of the evidence. Defenses to PFAs are typically fact based. For that reason, the sooner you speak with a Defense Attorney to prepare your defense, the better.
What Happens if a PFA Order is Entered Against Me?
If a judge believes that you committed abuse, then an Order can be entered and include the following:
- No Contact
- No Communication
- No Third-Party Communication
- Stay Away from their Work
- Stay Away from a School
- The Confiscation of your Firearms
- Stay Away from their Home
- Order you out of your own Home.
- Temporary custody of your children to the other party
If you violate any provision of the PFA Order, you can be charged criminally with Indirect Criminal Contempt, which can result in up to Six Months incarceration. You will also be placed in a statewide registry that indicates that you committed abuse.
What Happens if the Person that Filed the PFA Against Me Contacts Me?
Unfortunately, PFAs are a “one-way street.” This means that if the person that filed the PFA against you contacts you and you respond, you can be found to have violated the PFA Order. Before trying to navigate the PFA laws of Pennsylvania alone, contact an attorney that defends against PFAs. Our team of Defense Lawyers are happy to speak to you about what you can and cannot do before you find yourself in a worse situation.
What is an “Ex Parte” Hearing?
The PFA Act allows for someone to be given a Temporary PFA after an “Ex Parte” Hearing. “Ex Parte” means that only one party was present at the hearing and the other party was not there to defend themselves or given an opportunity to. After the “Ex Parte” Hearing, a Final PFA Hearing is scheduled within ten business days and the Defendant is given an opportunity to defend the claim at that time. Speaking with our Defense Team immediately after receiving the Temporary PFA can help you be better prepared for the Final Hearing.
I Have a Custody Order, but the PFA was Filed in Another County
The PFA Act does not require that the Petition be filed in the same County as a custody order. For example, a client may have a custody order in Allegheny County, but the PFA is filed in Westmoreland County. If you choose not to defend the PFA, you may end up with a temporary custody order from Westmoreland County that supersedes the custody order in Allegheny County. Our firm has offices in Greensburg, Latrobe, Johnstown, and Irwin. So, no matter where the PFA is filed our PFA Defense Attorneys are there to help.
The Bononi & Company Criminal Defense Team
NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED – Our attorneys have been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers Association and by Super Lawyers
LOCALLY RESPECTED – Our Firm was chosen as one of Westmoreland County’s Best Law Firms by the Tribune Review
PROVEN RESULTS – Marco F. Sylvania, Esquire was selected as a Member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (MDAF). The MDAF only extends membership to attorneys who have won a judgment or settled a case in the amount of ONE MILLION DOLLARS or more
Do Not Wait To Contact Us, Free Consultations
You do not have to try and fight this on your own. Our team of experienced PFA Defense Lawyers can explain the PFA process to you and make sure that you are diligently represented. You can trust us to guide you through every step and fight for your best interests.
Call the lawyers at Bononi & Company, P.C., today at 724-832-2499 or contact us online. We will be happy to discuss your case in person at our Greensburg office, Latrobe office, Irwin office, or Johnstown office.