Dealing with a PFA is never simple or easy. If you have been accused of abuse or domestic violence by someone close to you, it is crucial to defend your side. In Pennsylvania, PFAs are considered a civil matter. However, if you violate the PFA, the police have the right to arrest you and press criminal charges. Immediately after getting the order, you should contact a reliable lawyer for your case. Top criminal defense law firms like josephlento.com have years of experience in PFA defense, and they can work on the case immediately. Here’s what to expect when you go for the hearing.
Once you get the PFA, read all the details. Typically, there are strict no-contact rules along with other details. The order may require you to move out of the house so that you are not in close contact with the accuser, and you could be asked to give up your firearms to the police. You also have certain rights, including the right to have an attorney and the right to bring witnesses and present evidence.
Understanding different kinds of PFAs
What you have received is likely to be an emergency/temporary PFA. There are three different kinds of PFAs in Pennsylvania, and all of these are court orders which are binding and must be adhered to. If you end up violating the PFA, you may have to pay up to $1,000 in fines and serve up to 6 months jail time. Also, the PFA could be extended, and not to forget, you may not get to own firearms. It is also important to note that if you are convicted for violating the PFA, it would be added to your criminal background. In other words, you need to make sure that every word of the order is followed.
What is a permanent or final PFA?
Suppose the judge finds that the victim has reasons to fear for their lives, and the court orders a final PFA. That will remain in place for up to three years. The final PFA usually contains similar instructions or orders as the temporary PFA. The order will order the person to stay away from the plaintiff and cease all forms of contact, including emails and online messaging. The final PFA will also order the accused to move out of the house if they share the residence with the plaintiff. Depending on the situation, final PFAs may also order to continue financial support and attend counseling for anger issues, drug and alcohol abuse. An order may also include instructions to give up guns and firearms.
Will a PFA filed against someone affect their career and where they live?
Protection from abuse orders may have a ripple effect on the life of a person. For instance, if you work in close proximity to the accuser, you may have to quit your job. In some cases, PFA orders are seen as professional misconduct, especially for professionals working in fields like law enforcement and medicine (doctors and nurses). In some cases, the accused may have to move out of the house or could be evicted even if their name is on the lease.
I have been falsely accused of abuse and domestic violence. What can I do?
It is not common for spouses and exes to make groundless accusations against their partners. While the other party can get a PFA, they still have to prove that the said abuse happened, and the burden of proof is on them. PFA orders move quickly, and therefore, what you need to worry about is your defense. You may need witnesses and people to come to the hearing and must present more details. Keep in mind that not all types of evidence are admissible in court, and therefore, work with your lawyer to understand how things work.
At the hearing
The no-contact rules remain in place as you enter the courthouse. Make sure that you adhere to your lawyer’s instructions and adhere to the recommended behavior. It is not easy to process the things that the accuser may say against you, and you may even feel upset to know that the other side has distorted facts. Let your attorney defend the Pennsylvania PFA against you. They will bring character witnesses and present evidence to prove why the temporary order should be dismissed. Evidence that can be presented at the hearing include –
- Communication info like text details, emails, or personal chats
- Subpoena phone records
- Medical records
Be honest with your attorney
No matter whether you have committed the said things or not, it is necessary that you are honest with your attorney at all times. Your lawyer can only represent you aptly when they know the facts. They can only use the right strategies when you tell them the truth. Also, make sure that your lawyer is reliable and trustworthy, which is why their case records and success rate matters.
What type of attorney do you need?
Usually, it is best to consider hiring an attorney who specializes in criminal law and also practices family law. While a PFA is about defending your side, your lawyer needs to also work on custody agreements and other things that may concern your marriage/divorce. Not all criminal defense attorneys work on PFA matters, and therefore, check the work profile of the attorney. You can always check with your friends and family members to know if they have references, and there are also online resources that can come in handy. Make sure that you don’t delay in hiring a lawyer because you have a short window to decide your defense.
How much do lawyers charge for PFAs?
Most criminal defense lawyers charge an hourly rate for PFA matters, and you can get an estimate in advance. Regardless of what it costs you, make sure that you get the best possible attorney for the case. There could be a few additional expenses that you may have to incur, and it is wise to have an estimate.