Pennsylvania offers extra protections for victims of domestic abuse and domestic violence. One of those extra protections is the Protection from Abuse Order (or PFA Order). A Protection from Abuse Order provides an additional level of protection than those provided by the crimes code. At ARM Lawyers, we have experience assisting victims of domestic abuse in getting the additional protection of a PFA Order, but also have experience defending those accused of domestic violence.
Of course, domestic violence is a still a crime. Those facing allegations of domestic violence could be facing charges of assault, aggravated assault, and battery. If the crime is against a family member or partner, then the charges may carry extra weight in some cases. But a Protection from Abuse Order can add an extra level of protection.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, you can (and should) call the National Domestic Violence Hotline immediately.
What is a PFA in Pennsylvania?
In any domestic violence case, the victim of the alleged domestic violence may file a petition for a Protection from Abuse Order. This may order you to abstain from:
- further acts of abuse;
- returning to the victim’s household; or
- entering the victim’s residence, workplace, or school.
It may also contain orders for temporary custody and payment of support to the alleged victim. Even if you believe yourself completely innocent, do not violate the terms of any court orders granted following the alleged abuse. This could further complicate your case and lead to additional penalties.
Who Can Obtain a Protection from Abuse Order?
There is a general misconception that anyone who is threatened or abused by another individual can file a Protection from Abuse action. This is not so. Rather, in order to file a PFA action there must a relationship between the parties. They can be family members residing in the same home and/or those involved in a romantic relationship either now or previously. Abuse at the hands of anyone else may constitute a crime under another section of the law but it will not give rise to a protection from abuse order.
How Do You File a Protection from Abuse Order?
Unlike other pleadings, protection from abuse petitions must be filed by the person seeking the order. They are generally not filed by your attorney although it is wise to have an attorney represent you at the hearing which is ultimately scheduled on the petition. In many courts, the court will hold what is know as an ex parte hearing, meaning the other party is not present to determine whether or not a temporary order should be put in place. A final hearing will then be scheduled to determine if a long-term PFA is warranted.
Do I need a lawyer to get a PFA?
At ARM Lawyers, we represent victims of domestic abuse in PFA proceedings. We are often asked if you need a lawyer to get a PFA. In most counties in Pennsylvania, the court does not provide you with a lawyer. In order to get a Protection from Abuse Order, you must have a hearing in the Court of Common Pleas. Your abuser has the opportunity to defend himself/herself. That means, your abuser may have a lawyer even if you don’t.
As a result, it is entirely possible that a victim of domestic abuse is met in court by their abuser who has a lawyer. This can put you at a disadvantage.
If you are seeking a PFA, you should hire a Protection from Abuse lawyer.
Do I need a lawyer to defend against a PFA?
Because the accusations within a PFA can also form the basis of criminal charges, you should have a lawyer when defending against a PFA. Things you say in court can be used against you in a criminal proceeding.
Even if the allegations are fabricated, you shouldn’t go to court without a lawyer.
If you’re facing charges related to domestic abuse in, a Protection from Abuse attorney can examine your charges and help you create a defense against the charges.
Building a Defense to Domestic Violence
Your lawyer will examine the case details to help you determine possible defenses to whichever charges you are facing. Some possible defenses include self-defense, such as if the alleged victim attacked you, causing you to use force to defend yourself. Provocation might be a valid defense in certain cases as well.
In some cases, the violence was merely a mistake. If there’s evidence that you did not intend to physically assault the alleged victim, it might be a valid defense. An example might be if you mistakenly struck the individual when turning around, not knowing they were present behind you.
Other possible defenses include insanity and proving that the alleged incident for which you are charged never took place. Discuss each possibility with your attorney, who can help you create a strategy for approaching the charges levied against you.
What constitutes domestic abuse?
While your charges may not specifically read ‘”domestic violence,” Pennsylvania defines domestic abuse as certain crimes against household members, family members, former partners, parents, children, siblings, etc. The following actions may constitute domestic violence and lead to criminal charges:
- causing or attempting to cause bodily injury;
- sexual assault;
- assault or aggravated assault;
- false imprisonment;
- abusing a child; and
Per 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. 2711(a), a police officer may make an arrest if he or she has sufficient cause to believe you committed involuntary manslaughter, simple assault, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, terroristic threats, or stalking against a family member as defined above. So even if the officer did not have a warrant, the arrest may still be valid. That said, your defense lawyer will examine the circumstances of the arrest when handling your case.
What consequences might I face if facing domestic violence charges?
A Protection from Abuse Order is not criminal, but can come with consequences. It can affect your ability to own a gun, for example. It can also expose you to criminal prosecution. The criminal penalties you’re facing will depend on the specific charges levied against you. A conviction for involuntary manslaughter may carry more severe penalties than a conviction for simple assault, for example.
Moreover, if you violate a PFA, you can be exposed to criminal penalties including jail time.
Pennsylvania Counties Served
With three offices in Pennsylvania, we are close to you no matter where you are. Typically, our Protection from Abuse lawyer services the following counties:
- Carbon County PFA Lawyer
- Lehigh County PFA Lawyer
- Monroe County PFA Lawyer
- Northampton County PFA Lawyer
If your county is not listed, call us. While these are the counties we typically serve, we’ve handled cases in other counties upon request.
Speak to a Protection from Abuse lawyer in Pennsylvania
Do not attempt to handle a Protection from Abuse case on your own. Whether you are the victim of domestic abuse or are fighting a wrongful accusation, seek legal counsel with a PFA attorney who handles Protection from Abuse cases in Pennsylvania. Call us and we will evaluate your case.
Give us a call to schedule a consultation or reach out to your closest office: