Domestic violence is a widespread problem in Pennsylvania and across the nation. Pennsylvania’s Protection from Abuse Act (PFA) law was passed in 1976 to address this serious issue. Unfortunately, being falsely accused of domestic violence through the PFA law can have devastating consequences for your life and your future. Therefore, it is critical to have an aggressive PA Protection from Abuse (PFA) defense lawyer fighting for you in court.
Pennsylvania PFA Defense
The PFA Act has proven to be a practical resource in protecting Pennsylvania domestic abuse and violence victims. A PFA Order is also referred to as a Pennsylvania Restraining Order.
Regrettably, a spouse or domestic partner can use false accusations of domestic abuse to manipulate the legal system to gain an advantage in Pennsylvania child custody hearings and divorce proceedings, or to gain exclusive possession of a home.
In some cases, a PFA Plaintiff will commit perjury during their PFA testimony to try to support false evidence of abuse. As a result, having an experienced Pennsylvania PFA attorney is crucial to defend you against fraudulent PFA charges.
Lying on a PFA
When the Plaintiff deliberately lies in a PFA Petition, it can have disastrous repercussions for the respondent. In addition, being accused of abuse can often cause significant lifelong damage to your personal and professional reputation.
Unfortunately, individuals subject to a false PFA accusation may feel defenseless to fight back. Furthermore, a protective order can significantly impact your ability to work, obtain housing and even visit your children.
Your personal and professional future depends on your ability to successfully defend yourself against false accusations of abuse. Therefore, it is crucial to have a skilled Protection from Abuse attorney on your side if a judge if you suspect PFA fraud.
Penalty for Filing a False PFA in PA
A Plaintiff may file an untruthful PFA to gain an advantage in divorce proceedings, child custody matters, or to gain exclusive possession of the marital residence. Depending on the evidence and circumstances of the case, the police could charge a Plaintiff who knowingly filed a false Protection from Abuse Petition with the following:
- False swearing
- Unsworn falsification
- False reports to law enforcement
Proving Perjury in a PFA Case
Winning your PFA case will make it more likely that the police will consider filing perjury charges against the Plaintiff. To prove perjury, you will need to establish all of the following:
- The Plaintiff made a false statement under oath during the PFA hearing
- The statement was “material,” meaning that it could have affected the outcome of the proceeding
- The Plaintiff knew the statement was false at the time they made it
Gathering Evidence of PFA Perjury
A PFA Defendant should acquire as much outside evidence as possible to corroborate that the Plaintiff lied under oath during the PFA trial. Also, the perjury evidence should be provided to the police and district attorney.
A judge can sentence a person to jail if the judge concludes that they committed perjury in a PFA hearing. Unfortunately, police and prosecutors will not prosecute individuals who file fabricated PFA claims without substantial incriminating evidence. Therefore, a PFA Defendant should not wholly rely on the belief that the police will criminally charge a plaintiff for filing a false PFA.
Instead, the respondent in a PFA case should focus entirely on developing a convincing and comprehensive defense against the Plaintiff’s fraudulent charges.
PFA and Custody in PA
Unlike the factors considered during a typical Pennsylvania child custody hearing, a PFA Judge is not required to conduct a 16-factor best interests of the child analysis under the Pennsylvania Child Custody Act.
Does a PFA Override a Custody Order?
Yes. A PFA judge may award the Plaintiff temporary legal and physical custody of a child. To do so, the judge must conclude that the Defendant poses an immediate and present threat to the child or children identified as protected persons in the PFA Petition. In addition, the judge may also order that the Defendant pay temporary child support to the Plaintiff.
Also, the temporary custody order in a PFA Petition will supersede any existing child custody order issued through child custody court. In addition, a finding of abuse by a PFA judge can be used against the Defendant in any subsequent child custody proceedings.
Present or past abuse against a child is one of the 16 factors a child custody judge considers in determining the parental custody of a child. As a result, you must hire an aggressive custody lawyer to protect your child custody rights when the Plaintiff seeks custody through the protection order.
Protection From Abuse Lawyer
Protection from abuse defense is a specialized area of family law. As a result, once the police or sheriff serve you with the order of protection, you will search for PFA lawyers near me.
Most importantly, I am one of the most experienced PFA lawyers in the local area. I have over a decade of experience as a Bucks County PFA lawyer. Above all, I provide skilled and aggressive legal representation to individuals facing allegations of abuse from an emergency or temporary PFA Order.
PFA Defendants Rights
Once the Sheriff or police serve you with PFA papers, your initial thought process is, how do I choose from the many PFA lawyers near me? You will need an aggressive PFA attorney who will protect your rights, including your child custody rights.
In addition, my PFA Defense practice covers Montgomery County, Chester County, Delaware County, and the nearby Pennsylvania counties. Contact me at (215) 752-5282 for a free initial PFA consultation, or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response. Appointments are available after business hours and on weekends.
Who can be Covered under a PFA Petition in PA?
- You must be an adult household member or:
- Any other adult or guardian on behalf of a minor child and be one of the following:
- Current or former spouse
- Current or former sexual or intimate partner
- Others who are related by blood or marriage
- Same-sex couple
The PFA Act is meant to cover individuals who have domestic, familial, or romantic relationships. Also, the PFA law covers current relationships as well as past relationships.
You May be Suprised to Learn that the PFA Act Includes:
- Siblings (you share one or both parents)
- Spouses of your spouse’s siblings
Where can a Pennsylvania PFA be Filed?
A Plaintiff may file a Protection from Abuse Action in Bucks County, Montgomery County, or any other Pennsylvania County if that county is:
- Where the Plaintiff lives
- Where the Plaintiff is employed
- Where the Defendant may be served with the PFA Petition
- Where the alleged abuse occurred
- Where the Plaintiff lives if the Plaintiff requests exclusive possession of the residence
How Long Does a PFA Last in PA?
Under the Protection from Abuse Act, a judge can order that a PFA be in place for up to 3 years. Also, the PFA court can extend the PFA Order for as long as 3 years each time the judge finds that the Defendant violated the original protection order.
In practical terms, this means that a PFA judge could extend the length of the first PFA Order for many years beyond the expiration of the original PFA petition. Therefore, contacting a skillful PFA violation lawyer is imperative if the police charge you with indirect criminal contempt of a PFA Order.
What is Abuse under the PFA Act?
The grounds for a PFA in PA include the following:
- Causing or attempting to cause bodily injury or serious bodily injury
- Committing physical or sexual abuse of minor children
- Committing rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, or incest
- Placing someone in reasonable fear of immediate and serious physical harm
- Following someone (stalking) or repeatedly committing other acts that cause the person to have a reasonable fear of bodily injury
- Interfering with a person’s freedom of movement (e.g., false imprisonment)
Can You Get a PFA for Verbal Abuse?
It depends on the circumstances. For example, using abusive or vulgar language towards a spouse, girlfriend, or domestic partner during an argument or during a custody transfer of a child is not PFA abuse.
However, threatening physical harm or death to a girlfriend or repeatedly contacting a domestic partner with no legitimate purpose is considered abuse under the PFA Act.
What Happens When a PFA is Filed?
Once a judge grants a temporary PFA Order, the Plaintiff, police, sheriff, or responsible adult will serve you with the following:
- The Temporary PFA Order
- The PFA Petition
- A Notice to Appear
Do You Need a Lawyer for a PFA Hearing?
Yes. One of the most common questions I receive from people who received a PFA court notice is: Do I need a PFA defense lawyer for PFA court? Unfortunately, defending yourself at a PFA hearing can have disastrous consequences.
Also, most non-lawyers will need help understanding the PFA court hearing procedures and the rules of evidence applied during the hearing. In addition, a lack of understanding of court rules and the inability to make persuasive legal arguments can make winning your case before the judge difficult.
Some Pennsylvania Counties may provide a pro bono lawyer for individuals without legal representation. In most cases, you will meet the lawyer for the first time on the day of the PFA hearing. As a result, you will not get the best result in the case.
The PFA judge will schedule an evidentiary hearing to decide if the temporary PFA becomes permanent within 10 days after the judge signs the temporary PFA. Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania PFA Law gives Defendants very little time to prepare to defend themselves before the final PFA hearing.
In many situations, a PFA defendant will be served the PFA hearing notice less than 3 or 4 days before the PFA trial. Therefore, contacting an experienced PFA family lawyer as soon as the sheriff, police, or civilian serves you with a PFA is critical.
Fortunately, in most cases, a family court judge will grant a PFA continuance on behalf of a defendant for the following reasons:
- The PFA defendant needs to retain a lawyer
- The PFA defendant’s lawyer needs to complete a defense investigation
- The lawyer for the PFA defendant and the lawyer for the PFA plaintiff needs additional time to try to reach an agreement regarding the PFA
What are the Consequences of a Finding of Abuse?
The PFA Judge has broad discretion in imposing conditions upon a person the judge has found to have committed abuse. These conditions can include the following:
Placement of the Protection Order in the PA State Police Registry
Once the Final PFA Order is issued, law enforcement officials will place the protective order in the Pennsylvania State Police Registry. It is enforceable anywhere in Pennsylvania, tribal lands, United States territories, and the 49 states outside of Pennsylvania.
All current and potential employers and others conducting background checks will have access to the Pennsylvania Protective Order database.
PFA Mandatory Firearms Relinquishment
Can a Judge Order the Defendant to Turn Over Firearms as Part of a Temporary PFA Order?
Yes. A PFA judge may order the Defendant to surrender all firearms, other weapons, and ammunition as part of a temporary PFA under the following circumstances:
- The Plaintiff alleges abuse involving a firearm; or
- The Plaintiff alleges an immediate and present danger of abuse
A Defendant has 24 hours to transfer firearms, weapons, and ammunition if the judge orders a firearm relinquishment as part of a temporary PFA. In addition, the Defendant is not permitted to turn over firearms to family members or friends.
Also, the judge must order the Defendant to hand over all firearms, other weapons, and ammunition within 24 hours if the court enters a final PFA Order against the Defendant after a contested hearing.
Can the Police Charge me with a Crime if I do Not Turn Over my Firearms?
Yes. The police can charge you with a second-degree misdemeanor crime punishable by up to two years in jail if you do not comply with a court order to relinquish firearms.
Where Can a Defendant Turn Over Firearms under the PFA Law?
- The county Sheriff’s Department
- The local police department
- A licensed firearms dealer
- A commercial armory
- An attorney with whom the Defendant shares an attorney-client relationship
However, a Final Protection from Abuse Order entered by the Plaintiff and Defendant does not automatically trigger an automatic weapons relinquishment under Pennsylvania law.
Nonetheless, the PFA Judge can order a mandatory firearm, other weapons, and ammunition relinquishment in cases involving a PFA resolved through an agreement between the Plaintiff and the Defendant. For these reasons, you need an experienced Protection from Abuse lawyer to preserve your lawful gun rights.
Can a PFA Victim Violate a Protection Order?
No. The conditions and requirements of the Emergency, Temporary, or Final Pennsylvania PFA Order apply only to the Defendant (also referred to as the Respondent).
However, a PFA Defendant has the right to file a police report and request that the police file criminal charges against a PFA Plaintiff if they commit a criminal act against the Defendant.
In addition, a PFA Defendant can file for an emergency or temporary protection order against a PFA Plaintiff who engages in acts of abuse against the Defendant or against the Defendant’s children.
What Happens if You Violate a PFA in PA?
In most cases, the police arrest individuals accused of violating a Final PFA Order. As a result, the family court will schedule a hearing before a judge to determine whether they are in indirect criminal contempt (ICC) of the Final PFA Order.
Unfortunately, an innocent phone call, text message, or social media post will often result in the police or Plaintiff filing PFA violation charges.
In other instances, the police will make an arrest based on the accuser’s allegation alone, even if it is not truthful. Fortunately, I have extensive experience in PFA contempt hearings. But most importantly, I will fight to keep you out of jail if the Plaintiff accuses you of violating a Final PFA Order.
Indirect Criminal Contempt PA
A charge for violating a Final PFA Order is considered a criminal matter, carrying severe penalties, including a potential jail sentence of up to 6 months. At the Protection from Abuse Contempt Hearing, a prosecutor must present evidence before a judge to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant violated the Final PFA Order.
In many cases, the Defendant’s testimony and other exculpatory evidence can defeat a false PFA violation allegation. Therefore, I will prepare the most effective defense strategy to win a dismissal of the PFA Violation Petition.
Can the Judge Find Me in Contempt of a PFA Order for a Technical Violation?
No. The PFA judge would not rule that you are in contempt of the PFA Order if you have committed a mere technical violation of a provision or condition of the PFA Petition. An example is speaking to the Plaintiff about a neutral subject in person or by phone.
A judge will dismiss a Petition for Indirect Criminal Contempt of a PFA if the alleged communication is:
- Minor or insignificant
- Not made with the intent to abuse, harass or stalk the Plaintiff
Furthermore, the prosecutor must convince the judge that you acted with a wrongful intent to violate the court order to satisfy the burden of proof in a PFA contempt hearing. Finally, a person acts with wrongful intent if they act deliberately with the knowledge that they are violating the law.
Montgomery County PA PFA Indirect Criminal Contempt Hearings
In some instances, the Montgomery County District Attorney will agree to delay prosecuting a protection order violation. In a “wait and see” agreement, the Defendant must request a 90-day continuance of the PFA contempt hearing.
If the judge grants the continuance, the Defendant must comply with the PFA Order and any special conditions requested by the District Attorney. The prosecutor will withdraw the PFA Contempt Petition if the Defendant abides by all the agreement provisions during the 90 days.
What are the Penalties for a PFA Violation in PA?
- Fine of at least $300 and up to $1,000 (for each violation)
- Up to 6 months in jail (for each violation)
- Extension of the PFA Order for up to 3 years
Outside of these penalties, violating a Final PFA Order can significantly affect the status of any criminal case pending against you. Also, individuals charged with violating a PFA Order will often face separate charges in criminal court related to the same incident.
I have extensive experience successfully defending individuals who are simultaneously facing criminal charges and charges for violation of a Final PFA Order involving the same incident.
Can the Plaintiff Request a PFA Extension?
Yes. A plaintiff or an adult on behalf of a minor child may ask a PFA judge to extend a permanent PFA beyond its expiration date in the following circumstances:
- The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant committed one or more acts of abuse since the entry of the PFA Order
- The Defendant has engaged in a pattern of behavior that indicates a continued risk of harm to the Plaintiff or the minor child
- A hearing for contempt of the PFA Petition will not occur before the expiration of the PFA Order
- The Defendant is in custody or will be released from custody within 90 days of the filing of the PFA Extension Petition
It is essential to understand that the Plaintiff is not required to allege or prove that the Defendant is in contempt of an existing PFA Final Order to request a protection from abuse extension. Because of this, I work vigorously to protect a PFA Defendant’s rights if the Plaintiff files for an extension of an existing PFA Order.
How to Beat a False Restraining Order
I will thoroughly investigate the facts and circumstances of your case to develop the strongest possible defense against the allegations in the PFA Petition. A comprehensive investigation will often require the use of a private investigator.
Am I Entitled to Discovery in a PFA Case?
No. Unfortunately, there is no right to discovery in a PFA proceeding. Therefore, the Plaintiff is not required to provide the Defendant with any evidence in PFA court. As a result, it is up to you, your lawyer, and a private investigator to gather any evidence needed to convince the judge to dismiss the protection order.
How to Prepare for a PFA Hearing
My professional network includes many highly skilled independent defense investigators. Notably, the defense investigator will interview and subpoena all necessary witnesses for the Final PFA hearing.
In addition, the private investigator will examine and acquire various records that contradict the accuser’s version of events, including the following:
- Geo-location data
- Text messages from the accuser
- Medical records of the Plaintiff or the Defendant
- Video surveillance
- Social media records of the accuser
I will meet with you to review the evidence in the case and discuss our defense strategies. Also, I will spend significant time preparing you to testify in court. In addition, you will be fully prepared for the questions the Plaintiff’s lawyer will ask you.
Finally, pre-trial preparation is critical in mounting a successful defense against a false PFA petition.
How to Get a PFA Dismissed
As an experienced family law attorney, I have over a decade of experience defending individuals facing a Protection from Abuse Final Hearing. In addition, I fight for the rights of people accused of violating an existing PFA Order.
Through my broad criminal defense experience, I have developed the ability to discredit the testimony of the opposing party’s witnesses through intensive cross-examination.
How to Fight a PFA in PA
I am also skilled at exploiting the other weaknesses in the opposing party’s case, including the following areas:
- Did the plaintiff make a police report for each allegation in the PFA?
- Can the Plaintiff explain why the police never filed charges for the alleged abuse?
- Did the Plaintiff produce medical records or photographs to corroborate alleged injuries?
- Why doesn’t the Plaintiff have any witnesses to the alleged acts of abuse?
Above all, my primary goals are protecting your rights, reputation, and freedom.
Can I Appeal a PFA Order in PA?
Yes. In some cases, it is essential to appeal the final ruling of the family court PFA judge to protect your rights and to correct factual or legal mistakes made by the court. A PFA Defendant has 10 days to file a Motion for Reconsideration of the final PFA ruling.
Also, you must file a Notice of Appeal of the PFA decision to the Pennsylvania Superior Court within 30 days of the date of the formal decision on the PFA Petition.
A PFA Defendant should file the appeal of the Final PFA Ruling to the Pennsylvania Superior Court within the 30-day deadline. Importantly, the Defendant should file the appeal within the 30-day deadline even when the respondent requests a reconsideration of the Judge’s PFA decision.
If the PFA appeal is successful, the state appellate court may dismiss the PFA Petition, order a new PFA hearing, or grant other forms of relief. I can analyze the records of your PFA hearing to determine if you have grounds for a successful PFA appeal.
Does a PFA Show up on a Background Check?
Yes. Although a civil PFA record will not appear on a criminal background check, it will remain accessible in the civil court records of the case.
Even unsubstantiated or false PFA filings may be attainable through the civil court record system for employment or another professional background check. However, a conviction for violating a PFA Order, referred to as indirect criminal contempt, will appear on a criminal background check.
Does a PFA Go on Your Record?
Yes. The issuance of an Emergency PFA Order or Temporary PFA Order can significantly damage your personal and professional reputation. Also, employers, landlords, and government agency officials can discover PFA records in publicly accessible civil court dockets and other databases.
Unfortunately, employers and others who find the PFA court records will often use them to deny you employment, professional licensing, or professional certification.
Therefore, it is important to petition the court to expunge your PFA records if you are eligible under Pennsylvania law. I can explain the Pennsylvania PFA record expungement process to you and determine if your PFA case records qualify to be expunged.
How to Expunge a PFA in PA
Experienced Representation for the PFA Expungement Process
Under Pennsylvania law, the right to expunge a PFA record is not automatic. Therefore, in deciding whether to grant a Protection from Abuse Expungement, the court will consider the following factors:
- The age of the Petitioner
- The circumstances of the case
- The hardship caused to the Petitioner by the existence of the PFA Record
- The prosecutor’s reasons for preserving the PFA Records
I have considerable experience successfully assisting individuals in the PFA expungement process. I can determine whether you are eligible to have your Protection from Abuse records expunged.
How to Drop a PFA in PA
A Final PFA Order can last as long as 3 years. In addition, some temporary PFAs can last for 6 months or longer if both parties reach an agreement.
However, there are often circumstances under which the Plaintiff and the Defendant might want a temporary or permanent Pennsylvania Restraining Order withdrawn. In many cases, the parties to the PFA Petition have decided to reconcile after the court entered the original PFA Order.
Each Pennsylvania County has policies and procedures for filing a Petition to Vacate a PFA Order. In Bucks County, Montgomery County, Chester County, and Delaware County, PA, the Plaintiff can withdraw a Temporary or Emergency Protective Order in PFA Court without filing a Motion to Vacate PFA.
However, most counties require that the Plaintiff file a Motion to Withdraw a Final PFA Order. After the Plaintiff files the petition, the PFA judge will conduct a hearing to determine if there are appropriate reasons for canceling the Permanent Protective Order.
What is the Legal Standard for Vacating a Final PFA Order?
To vacate the PFA, the Plaintiff must convince the PFA judge that the Defendant no longer poses a threat of abuse. Secondly, the Plaintiff must demonstrate that the PFA withdrawal request is not the result of pressure, threats, or coercion by the Defendant or others.
The PFA judge will deny the Petition if the Petitioner does not satisfy both conditions. As a result, the existing Final PFA Order will remain in place. Finally, I can assist you with the court process and procedure to convince the Judge to cancel the PFA Order.
PFA Attorney Near Me
The sheriff or police just served you with a PFA based on lies and exaggerations. Your first thought is, how do I choose from the many PFA lawyers in my area? If that is the case, contact me as soon as possible.
My practice area includes Bucks County, Montgomery County, and surrounding Pennsylvania Counties. I will actively protect your rights and begin building the most effective defense against the Plaintiff’s false PFA allegations.