Philadelphia Protection From Abuse (PFA) Defense Lawyer
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issues Protection from Abuse orders to protect family and household members from abuse and physical harm by family members and intimate partners. But what happens when the system fails, and you suddenly find yourself on the side of being wrongfully accused? That is when you need to hire a Philadelphia Protection From Abuse (PFA) defense lawyer at Shuttleworth Law.
“Defending against a PFA order is more painful than most people even comprehend. Everyone in an accused person’s life looks at them like they have done something wrong before even having a chance to tell their side of the story. Here’s what I say: ‘Ignore the trolls. Sit tight. Give me a call. Let’s see what we can work out from a legal standpoint.’ If there is a solution to defend your case, I will find it.”
PFA orders can last up to three years and affect many rights, including parental rights, owning a firearm, and residing in your own home. If a PFA order is entered against you, you need to fight like hell to achieve the outcome you deserve.
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Shuttleworth Law Has Got Your Back During the PFA Process
The Protection from Abuse Act under 23 Pa.C.S. § 6101 protects people from alleged domestic abuse and violence. It is Pennsylvania’s version of a restraining order and limits contact between two people. Under this law, your accuser must prove that you are more likely than not that you committed one or more acts of abuse against them.
Here is how they get a judge to sign off on that:
- Step 1. Petition the Court: Your accuser formally tells the court on paper and in person that you have committed certain acts, and they are in immediate danger without a PFA.
- Step 2. The judge issues a temporary PFA: Since the evidentiary requirements for a temporary PFA order are less stringent than, say, a jury trial, the judge will likely grant a temporary PFA if there is just enough proof. These orders are issued ex parte, which means a judge signs the order without you there to defend yourself.
- Step 3. Defend yourself at the hearing: Within ten business days of the order being signed, you will have a chance to argue your side of things in court at a real hearing. This hearing is important since it is a huge opportunity to set the record straight.
You have other legal options as well. Some clients prefer to enter into an agreement without admission rather than go to the hearing described in Step 3. Regardless of how you want to handle things, a Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer at Shuttleworth Law will explain your options clearly and execute your decisions strategically on your behalf.
You Do Not Have to Pretend Like Everything Is Okay
An agreement without admission is one made between you and the accuser that resolves their complaint in a less stringent manner. The judge must approve the agreement. They signify that the judge did not specifically determine that there was abuse, which, in the legal sense, protects your reputation and background.
Aside from that, there are other reasons why some people want an agreement without admission:
Everything Relationship Has Problems
In many relationships, the best outcome is to admit there are problems and address them so that they can get back on track. However, family disputes are often based on alcohol or drug abuse, money problems, or other issues that can be managed with support.
Consent Decrees Have Stipulations
Agreements sometimes require that you complete some type of counseling or treatment program. The agreement may require that you live apart while you complete the program.
We Will Find the Right Solution
While our Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer is not advocating that agreements fit every household and family dynamic, we share this information to let you know that you can use the law to make things as easy as possible for yourself and others.
Handle a PFA with a Knowledgeable Team
The Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer at Shuttleworth Law does not want to see you accept responsibility for something that never happened. Contact us now to schedule a Free Case Evaluation at (215) 774-1371.
You Lose Legal Rights If Your Accuser Gets a PFA
A PFA is more than just a “no contact” order. The presiding judge has the authority to order a loss of other rights and liberties. These losses can make a frustrating situation even more maddening.
Here are the following rights you could lose if a judge enters a PFA against you:
- No contact with the victim
- Forced to leave your home
- Custody loss
- Prohibited contact with children
- No firearms use or possession
- Paying the victim’s abuse-related damages
- Other rights lost as set forth in the final order
The PFA may also appear on a formal background check, making it more challenging to obtain a job or home.
In summation, your life, liberty, reputation, happiness, property, and relationships will all be in peril if you do not reach an agreement or convince a judge that the accuser’s claim lacks merit. Avoid forfeiting this opportunity by hiring a Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer at Shuttleworth Law ASAP!
A PFA Order Can Create Future Problems
Although a permanent PFA order is not the same thing as a criminal conviction, it can be as serious as a criminal conviction in some cases. Below, we have outlined some very real consequences of a PFA:
A Record of Your Past
The Pennsylvania State Police maintain a record of PFA orders, meaning that your record could show up on a background check for protection orders, resulting in difficulty obtaining employment, housing, or educational opportunities for years to come.
Loss of Rights
Additionally, it gives the court the authority over you to force you to relinquish firearms, stay away from your accuser, and even move out of the house if you share a residence. Thus, the consequences of a PFA can be extremely severe, impacting the lives of both parties and ruining relationships forever.
Criminal Charges and Penalties
In matters where the allegations are false, the PFA Order gives the alleged victim leverage to seek criminal charges for contempt against you. Criminal contempt can land you in jail for up to 5 months and 29 days.
While the Commonwealth does not have a single specific domestic violence crime on the books, prosecutors can pursue enhanced criminal charges and penalties for domestic violence and abuse.
For orders and sentence enhancements, 23 Pa.C.S. § 6102 defines domestic abuse as “one or more of the following acts between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood:”
- 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
- Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
- The infliction of false imprisonment
- Physically or sexually abusing minor children
Domestic violence charges carry stiff penalties. Stalking, child abuse, and sexual assault crimes can result in prison terms of five, seven, or even ten years or more. Do not leave your fate in the hands of aggressive prosecutors.
Schedule Your Free Case Evaluation Now
Retain a skilled and experienced Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer at Shuttleworth Law now. Brad V. Shuttleworth, Esq. will get you the outcome you deserve. Call (215) 774-1371 or message us via this contact form.
You Can Defend Against a PFA Order in Pennsylvania
When facing a PFA order, you will have to attend a court hearing to decide upon whether or not the PFA will be finalized and what the terms of the order will be if it is finalized.
There are several ways a person may defend against a PFA order they are facing, including:
- Presenting evidence
- Making proper arguments
- Following court procedure
Essentially, it is your shot to put a stop to your accuser’s efforts. However, even if the judge still issues one, your statements will still be considered by the presiding judge and may affect the final outcome of the matter. Judges will always consider all input from a defendant at a hearing, so it is important to make use of this opportunity.
Tips for Dealing with a PFA While Waiting for Legal Representation
Courts often err on the side of caution when handling potential domestic violence and abuse victims. The burden of proof is lower than the criminal standard. Unfortunately, a PFA is also open to potential abuse, especially in high-tension divorce and custody cases.
PFAs are tactile weapons, particularly when created under false or exaggerated pretenses. Innocent parties should always fight back with the help of a Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer.
As you consider your options for legal representation, Shuttleworth Law offers these five tips for navigating the challenges in the meantime:
Tip 1. Keep Your Cool
An alleged victim can file for a temporary PFA at police stations or any court location. They fill out a form, highlight the abuse, and the temporary PFA Order is signed by a judge. Then, the order takes effect as soon as it is served on the subject, sometimes even on the same day.
Heed this warning: The worst move is to ignore it or to confront or communicate with the party who lodged it. Once served, you are barred from any form of contact with the alleged victim.
Tip 2. Know That Your Story Will Be Told Soon
A temporary PFA remains in effect only until a more formal hearing before a judge can be scheduled. This court proceeding can involve witnesses, evidence, testimony, and cross-examinations. As the subject of the PFA, you should retain an experienced Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer.
At the hearing stage, witnesses can bolster a case against an unjust PFA, as well as show any messages, emails, and phone calls from the alleged victim. While a PFA does not bar them from contacting the PFA subject, these communications can become powerful evidence in fighting the order.
Never respond to their communications. Instead, save everything for the record and share it with your attorney for the hearing. It will become more powerful than you realize, as it is hard to convince a judge that they are terrified of you but, somehow, they are comfortable enough to keep contacting you. See?
Tip 3. Hiring a PFA Defense Lawyer in PA Will Help You Reveal Motives
Even a temporary PFA can force one party to vacate the marital home immediately. A temporary PFA can even prevent a parent from visiting a child! If the PFA also covers the child, a parent can be blocked from all contact until the PFA hearing.
Harmful motives can be proven and examined during the permanent PFA hearing, along with evidence showing that the filing was more about its game-changing impact than a legitimate fear of abuse.
Tip 4. ‘Play the Tape Forward’ When Dealing with Potential PFA Violations
Violating a PFA results in a criminal charge of indirect criminal contempt. It is a misdemeanor crime that carries fines between $300 to $1,000 with jail time of up to six months.
Remember these consequences if the urge to violate the PFA comes up. We call that ‘playing the tape forward,’ and it is very effective
Only a judge can dismiss a PFA petition and vacate a temporary PFA order. Even if the accuser tells you they are dropping it, you cannot make any contact before the order has been officially reversed by a judge. Try to remember that and remain as calm as possible throughout the process.
Work with an Experienced Philadelphia Protection From Abuse (PFA) Defense Lawyer
When the stakes are high, you do not want to take a PFA order lightly. Shuttleworth Law offers personalized legal advice that makes sense for your situation. Our Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer will explain your rights and aggressively fight against the issuance of a PFA order that should have never been requested in the first place.
If an order has already been issued, we will also work to protect your child custody and visitation rights to see your children. We also handle Indirect Criminal Contempt hearings (ICC) if you have been charged with violating a no-contact order or PFA order as well.
Our defense team is a one-stop legal champion that gets fired up over PFA orders and is protective of the targets they seek to upset. Pennsylvania laws protect people in your situation; let us help you understand and assert them.
Get a Free Case Evaluation with Brad V. Shuttleworth, Esq.
If you or a loved one is facing domestic violence charges, contact Brad V. Shuttleworth, founder, and Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer, at Shuttleworth Law today for Your Free Case Evaluation at (215) 774-1371. You can also message us via the secure contact form below.
Philadelphia Protection From Abuse (PFA) FAQs
What is a PFA in Pennsylvania?
In any domestic violence situation, the victim of the alleged domestic violence may file a petition for PFA Order. This may order you to prevent you from engaging in the following
- Acts of abuse
- Returning to the shared residence
- Being within the vicinity of the victim
It can also contain orders for temporary custody and payment of support. Even if you know you are completely innocent, do not violate the terms of any court orders granted following the alleged abuse because it could unnecessarily turn into a criminal matter at that point.
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Who Can Get a PFA Order Against Me?
To file a PFA action, there must be a familial or residential relationship between the relevant parties. They can be biological family members residing in the same home or those involved in a romantic relationship, either now or in the past. Abuse at the hands of anyone else may constitute a crime under another section of the law but will not give rise to a PFA order.
Is a PFA Order a Criminal Matter?
A PFA matter is accuser versus a “respondent” and not the Commonwealth versus a “defendant.” However, if a person violates a PFA, it can and will lead to a criminal contempt charge. In addition, violating a Court Order means that the Commonwealth can prosecute you for additional charges, such as assault and terroristic threats
Lastly, unlike in criminal court, the burden of proof for a PFA case is “by the preponderance of the evidence,” which is much lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the standard in all criminal courts in the United States. Therefore, your accuser needs to only show that they are more likely than not going to suffer from abuse or violence again.
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