An Invaluable Legal Protection That Is Itself Susceptible To Abuse.
A Protection From Abuse (PFA) order can be a great resource to those who are truly being abused.
Unfortunately, PFA orders are often filed maliciously to get back at an ex or cause issues during a custody dispute.
As the defendant in a PFA, you will lose your right to possess and carry firearms. So if your job involves carrying firearms, it could be at risk. You can be thrown out of your house. Your ability to see your children can be limited. As a result of a PFA, a defendant could face disciplinary action in other areas of their life. College students could be thrown out of school. Licensed professionals could lose their license or, at the very least, their jobs. If you have a government security clearance you can lose that too. These are just a few of the consequences of having the PFA filed against you granted. If you’ve been falsely accused of abuse in a PFA, the allegations must be fought with the same vigor as criminal charges.
The petitioner in a PFA alleges that the defendant committed at least one act of abuse.
In Pennsylvania, an “act of abuse” is:
- Physical or sexual assault, including attempted
- Putting them in fear of imminent serious bodily harm
- Physical or sexual abuse of a minor
- Harassment or stalking
Not only will the PFA order defendant to stop all direct and indirect contact, it can also evict the defendant from a shared home, require relinquishing of firearms, and order just about anything else the judge believes is necessary. Although the PFA order is civil, violating that order could result in criminal contempt charges that carry up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
In a criminal case, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt—basically a 99% chance.
However, a civil case is proven by the preponderance of the evidence—basically a 51% chance. So, it’s harder for the defense to win a civil case than a criminal case. You only have the right to a hearing before a judge, not a jury. To give an example to illustrate the connection between criminal and civil cases, we can look to OJ Simpson. OJ Simpson won the criminal trial because the prosecution was unable to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, he lost the civil wrongful death trial filed by his ex-wife’s family. His family only needed to prove that OJ Simpson killed her by a preponderance of the evidence.
If there is a finding of abuse after a hearing, and the defendant is facing criminal charges, the fact a PFA was granted may be admissible in the criminal case. There are many variables to consider in defending a PFA and each case is unique. Always seek out an experienced law firm if you have been served a PFA. Contact Manchester and Associates to learn more about this.