You defend against a Protection From Abuse (PFA) in PA by following the rules of the temporary order, attending the hearing, and presenting legal arguments and evidence before a judge. A PFA defense attorney can offer you legal advice throughout the process while devising a case strategy and defending you in court.
You have legal rights in this situation, even if it feels like the whole world is against you. It is not easy to leave your home and miss out on seeing your children, both common requirements of a temporary PFA order. However, insight, information, and legal advice can make the process more fair and manageable.
In This Article
A Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer dives into an overview of PFA orders, our top three tips for defending against a PFA in PA, activities you should avoid, and where you can get personalized information about your case at no cost.
An Overview of PFA Orders in Pennsylvania
The police served you with either a temporary or permanent PFA. The assigned judge typically issues a temporary PFA in an ex parte hearing without notice to you. Your accuser only needs to show that domestic abuse and violence are more likely to happen than not, a much lower evidentiary standard known as a “preponderance of the evidence.”
However, a permanent PFA requires your accuser to meet higher evidentiary standards while giving you a chance to defend yourself in court first. For a PFA, you will receive a notice of your hearing scheduled within ten business days.
You must appear at the hearing. If you fail to do so, the judge may issue a final PFA without your input. This order could also prevent you from entering places where the petitioner works, studies, or socializes.
Differences Between Temporary and Final PFAs
A temporary PFA only lasts from the ex parte hearing to the final hearing, whereas a final PFA is an order that could last for up to three years under 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108.
Three Tips for Defending Against a PFA in PA
PFAs serve an important purpose of protecting vulnerable family members or intimate partners. However, when someone is falsely accusing you of violent or abusive acts, you should never just accept responsibility. A PFA order affects your legal rights, including the ability to live in your home, have contact with children, or own or possess a firearm.
In addition, the violation of a temporary or final PFA order can subject you to criminal contempt charges.
That said, this situation is beyond devastating for you, like many people accused of abusing a loved one. Your PFA hearing will happen soon, so that means there is a little bit of waiting time as there is no other resolution that allows you to defend your case.
Here are our top three tips for defending against a PFA in PA while you wait for your hearing:
Tip 1. Attend the PFA Hearing
The court will schedule a hearing within ten business days after your accuser gets the temporary PFA order. This hearing is a big one, meaning that you cannot afford to miss it if you want to defend against a PFA in PA.
By not attending, the judge will rule in favor of your accuser if they have sufficient evidence to show just cause. Instead, use the days in between now and your hearing to find an experienced and understanding Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer.
Tip 2. Preserve Exonerating Evidence
You may or may not have evidence of your accuser’s misdeeds and conflicting statements. However, if you do, preserve it, back it up, and guard it with your life until you can talk to an attorney.
Examples of evidence that you can use to clear your name include:
- Eyewitness testimony
- Harassing voicemails
- Medical records from injuries
- Photo evidence
- Social media screenshots
- Telephone records
- Text message screenshots
- Video evidence
- Written threats of harm
Obtaining evidence without legal help is a challenge for many people in your situation. On the one hand, you have every right to defend your life, but on the other, what happens if you make a mistake while gathering evidence that costs you your defense?
First of all, good call.
Second, make a list of all the possible evidence you might have available. Let your lawyer handle the tough stuff, like getting forensic data and interviewing witnesses. In the meantime, there is nothing wrong with downloading PDFs of medical records, phone bills, and emails or taking screenshots of text messages.
In fact, that initial work will make your Free Case Evaluation far more productive and informative as Brad will have more facts about your case.
Tip 3. No Accuser Contact
The golden rule of being slapped with a temporary PFA order is to never make contact with the alleged victim. When the court issues one, you must wait until the outcome of your PFA hearing. A violation of a PFA under 23 Pa.C.S. § 6114 can result in a fine between $300 and $1,000 and up to six months imprisonment.
Related Article: Can the Philadelphia Police Lie to You?
Avoid Doing These Things
The most important thing to remember when dealing with a temporary PFA order is that no contact means no contact. Period. Any violations on your part can result in criminal penalties, as described in the preceding section.
Being nervous is understandable. Sometimes, people get so nervous about their situation that they make counterintuitive decisions that hurt their cases. However, you are responsible for your actions at all times, so we strongly urge you to err on the side of caution until the matter gets resolved.
Below, we have outlined our top ten actions to avoid when dealing with a PFA order:
- No accepting invites from your accuser to “work things out”
- No alleged victim contact
- No asking a third party to give your accuser a message
- No claiming ignorance of the requirements
- No disregarding the PFA
- No evidence destruction
- No getting in trouble with the law
- No trying to get around temporary
- No trying to see your accuser in public
- No witness contact
Your situation is serious. Even if your accuser seems like they are calming down and “want you to come back home,” they need to understand that they set a chain of events in motion that should NEVER be abused.
Temporary PFAs are a vital tool that only real victims should be using. If your accuser tries to contact you, their misstep could become part of your defense.
Plus, your loved one could become angry at you if they do not like your response—again—and get you arrested for violating the order. Do not take the bait.
Related Article: Why Hire a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer?
You Can Defend Against a PFA in PA
Is a family member or intimate partner accusing you of doing something that never happened? Maybe they even think they have a case against you but operate on a misapprehension. Regardless of your situation, it is critical to clear your name.
You do not have to walk through this moment alone.
Shuttleworth Law is the criminal defense firm to call when you need legal advice from a Philadelphia PFA defense lawyer. Brad V. Shuttleworth, Esq. takes a candid approach with clients and carries a strong, local reputation for achieving results.
Learn More With Your Free Case Evaluation Now
We are ready to help you put an end to this nightmare. Call Shuttleworth Law for Your Free Case Evaluation now by calling at (415) 774-1371. Brad also welcomes you to shoot him a quick note about your case here.