Hiring the right PFA Lawyer in Pennsylvania makes all the difference
Having an experienced PFA Lawyer on your side is your best shot at defending against a PFA in PA. Receiving a Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order is scary, stressful, and typically comes without warning. Even worse, your entire life can be turned upside down if the order becomes permanent.
If you’ve been accused of abuse, the alleged victim may seek a PFA in order to obtain a more permanent restraining order. This can affect your home life, work, and relationship with your children. Ensure you contact an experienced PFA Lawyer at Kitay Law Offices for legal representation as soon as possible.
What is a PFA Order?
A PFA Order is a type of restraining order that is designed to protect someone from abuse or violence. The order can be temporary or permanent, and can have a major impact on the accused person’s life.
Once you receive a PFA Order, ensure you read it immediately. Critically, the first PFA you receive from the sheriff will be a temporary PFA. It will explain any restrictions that have been placed on you until a formal hearing occurs. For example, you may be prevented from contacting the person who has alleged abuse.
Further, a PFA is active throughout the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. So, regardless of the county in which you were served with the PFA, the Order remains in place anywhere you go in the state.
Can a PFA Lawyer explain the PFA court process?
The PFA court process is governed by the Protection from Abuse Act. Here is a general outline of the PFA court process in Pennsylvania:
- Initial Application/Emergency PFA: The alleged abuse victim will file paperwork at their local court seeking protection. Depending on the time of day or day of the week, an emergency order may be granted with a hearing to be held as soon as possible in the next day or so.
- Temporary PFA: The alleged victim will have a hearing with a judge, typically the same day that the PFA application is filed. This hearing occurs ex parte, which means that the alleged abuser is not present. Importantly, this is why you typically have no notice that a PFA has been filed against you until the sheriff serves it on you. At this point, you should contact a PFA Lawyer in PA immediately for help.
- Final PFA Hearing: When you are served with the Temporary PFA, it will include scheduling information for the “Final Hearing.” The Final Hearing is where both sides present evidence for the judge to make a formal decision on the Protection from Abuse petition. Importantly, deadlines are very tight because the Final Hearing typically occurs within 10 days from when the Temporary PFA was granted.
Are PFA Orders permanent?
If the judge grants a Final PFA Order against you, it can remain in effect for up to 3 years at a time. In addition, the judge can potentially renew the Order an unlimited number of times. Importantly, only a judge can decide whether to end or continue a Final PFA Order.
So while a Final PFA Order is not technically permanent, it could remain in effect indefinitely. For this reason, you’ll want an experienced PFA Lawyer to challenge the PFA in court. Using the court process is the only way to officially change, modify, or terminate the Final PFA Order against you.
What can a PFA Order do?
If granted, a PFA Order can impose several restrictions. Here are some examples of what the judge can include:
- Order you to stop the alleged abuse
- Evict the abuser from the home
- Establish child custody or visitation rights
- Order child support payments
- Make you stay away from the alleged victim or your children
- Restrict you from gun ownership and make you give up any guns or licenses you have
As you can see, a Final PFA court Order can include many restrictions and limitations. Ensure you fight for your rights with an experienced PFA Lawyer in Pennsylvania.
How can a PFA affect my life?
In addition to the restrictions specifically outlined in the Final PFA Order, a PFA in PA can have other significant consequences for your life. For example, you may struggle to find a job as the PFA may show up on a background check. And if you violate a Final PFA Order, you can wind up facing jail time and a fine.
What is the penalty for violating a PFA?
Violating a Protection from Abuse Order can result in arrest and criminal charges for something called Indirect Criminal Contempt. Importantly, this crime carries up to a 6 month jail sentence and a fine up to $1,000. Therefore, ensure you review any Final PFA Order with an experienced PFA Lawyer so you completely understand the terms.
How a PFA Lawyer can fight your PFA Order in Pennsylvania
Importantly, you still have hope after receiving a Temporary PFA in PA. In fact, there are lots of things you and your PFA Lawyer can do to fight against it becoming a Final PFA Order. Here are a few:
Bring witnesses to the Final Hearing
The Temporary PFA will include scheduling information for the Final Hearing. Make sure you and your lawyer contact any relevant witnesses in advance who can speak to your side of the story. These may include family members, friends, medical professionals, law enforcement officials, or others.
Also, you want to ensure these witnesses will actually show up to the Final Hearing. So, follow any proper subpoena procedures that may apply to the court where your PFA is scheduled for hearing.
Organize your evidence with your PFA Lawyer
During the Final Hearing, you only get one opportunity to present your evidence. So, make sure you have all of your evidence organized and in order prior to the start of the hearing. Your evidence may include such items as:
- Testimony from witnesses
- Medical records from hospitals and doctor visits
- Police reports
- Photos and/or videos
- Audio from 911 calls
These are just some ideas of evidence you may want to review or submit during your Final Hearing. Speaking with an experienced PFA Lawyer is highly important so you can develop a plan of action for the hearing.
Practice in front of a mirror
Walking into court can be stressful in and of itself, but it can be even worse when your hearing involves a PFA. You’ll be thinking about all the things that could go right or wrong, so it can be quite overwhelming.
Therefore, it is helpful to practice what you will say during your testimony. Remember, your PFA Lawyer cannot tell you what to say or not to say. Plus, you always have an obligation to tell the truth. However, your attorney can give you a good idea what kind of questions they will ask you depending on the facts of your case.
Based on that, you can practice how you plan to answer those questions. This way, you can feel more relaxed and confident while giving testimony. Being more relaxed may help you appear more confident and credible in front of the judge.
Follow the rules of court
Of course, you will want to make a good first impression on the judge during your Final Hearing. One of the best ways to do that is to follow the rules of evidence and procedure. Your PFA Lawyer in PA will help explain how they all work.
In addition, follow these guidelines to help make a good first impression on the judge:
- Arrive on time for your hearing.
- Dress clean and somewhat formal. Business-casual is a good rule of thumb.
- Confirm any witnesses you plan to present prepare in advance and arrive on time.
- When you testify, confirm you understand each question before answering. Once you give your answer, wait quietly and patiently for the next question.
While there are never any guarantees in a PFA Final Hearing, following the above steps can put you on the right track to success.
Can a PFA Lawyer explain what happens during the PFA Final Hearing?
In a nutshell, the Final Hearing for your PFA is sort of like a mini-trial. To begin, the judge will enter the courtroom and then confirm with all parties the issues you will address during the hearing.
Typically, the alleged victim will begin by testifying in support of their abuse allegations. Therefore, the alleged victim must swear to tell the truth and then be able to answer questions. The questions may come from an attorney they hire, the judge, or both.
Once the alleged victim finishes with their direct testimony, you and your PFA Lawyer will be able to ask questions. In legal circles, we call this “cross-examination.”
After cross-examination is complete, the alleged victim will be able to present any other testimony or evidence they wish to offer. With each witness, you will then have the opportunity to cross-examine. Your experienced PFA Lawyer will be in the best position to do this.
After the alleged victim presents all of their evidence, you will be able to present any testimony or evidence you have to defend against the abuse allegations. Each witness you present, including yourself, will be subject to cross-examination, as well.
Once all the evidence is on the table from both sides, the judge will make a decision. If the judge grants a Final PFA Order, he or she will explain the terms and conditions of the Order, including how long it will remain in effect.
How your PFA Lawyer can help win your hearing and remove a PFA
To win the PFA Final Hearing, the alleged victim must show two elements: (1) a Qualifying Domestic Relationship; and (2) an Act of Abuse occurred. If you can successfully challenge one, or both, of those elements, the PFA must be denied.
Qualifying Domestic Relationship
The Protection from Abuse Act explains the requirements for showing that you and the alleged victim are in a Qualifying Domestic Relationship. Some examples include:
- Current or former spouses
- Current or former intimate partners
- Brothers or sisters
- Family members related by blood or marriage
- Same-sex couples
- People who have a child together
If the alleged victim can demonstrate a Qualifying Domestic Relationship, the judge will look to the next element.
Typically, your relationship with the alleged victim either falls into one of these categories or it doesn’t. In other words, this element of the equation is not typically in dispute.
An Act of Abuse Occurred
As explained in the Protection from Abuse Act, an Act of Abuse can include a variety of situations. Therefore, some examples may include:
- Attempting to cause, or causing, bodily injury, rape, sexual assault, sexual violence, domestic violence, and other qualifying physical injuries
- Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury
- False imprisonment
- Sexually abusing minor children
Importantly, this is not an exhaustive list. Further, whether you have committed an Act of Abuse is often up for debate. Frequently, each party has their own side to the story, which is why the judge is there to make a decision.
Because the evidence surrounding an Act of Abuse can be complex and up for interpretation, having a skilled PFA Attorney on your side can make a huge difference.
Your attorney will work to show were the evidence supporting an Act of Abuse is inconsistent, weak, or just plain doesn’t make sense. As a result, the best way to dismiss your PFA is to work with a PFA Lawyer who knows the rules and can advocate on your behalf.
What if someone lies to get a restraining order? What is the penalty for filing a false PFA?
If someone lies in order to get a restraining order, they can be subject to both civil damages and criminal charges. Unfortunately, PFAs sometimes come about from false allegations.
Whether the alleged victim faces criminal charges is up to the District Attorney (“DA”). If the DA decides to charge the alleged victim with perjury, they will face a third degree felony charge. If convicted, they could face up to seven years in prison.
In addition, the false allegations may support a civil lawsuit for damages due to libel, slander, or defamation. These types of legal actions ask for money as compensation for the damage you suffer, but they are not criminal charges.
Contact a strong PFA Lawyer in PA at Kitay Law Offices for immediate help
If you’re in need of a PFA Lawyer in Pennsylvania, don’t hesitate to contact Kitay Law Offices. Our team of skilled attorneys is experienced in defending clients against Protection from Abuse allegations and can help defend your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation about your PFA in PA.