In order to obtain a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) in PA, the following steps must be completed:
- Must fall under the qualifications of obtaining a PFA in Pennsylvania
- Fill out a request for a PFA at your County’s PFA office
- Appear briefly in person before a judge who will grant or deny your PFA on a temporary basis
- Attend the Final Hearing on your PFA where you & your attorney present evidence OR the defendant consents to the granting of the PFA
The PFA process is intended to provide relief for a victim from his or her abuser. Many individuals relate Protection from Abuse Orders (“PFA”) to Restraining Orders. In fact, those terms are often used interchangeably. However, the PFA process is not considered part of the criminal system, and a restraining order is. While criminal charges can come from actions leading to a PFA, the PFA process itself is civil. Attorney Damon C. Hopkins has dedicated over two decades of his life to serving those involved with PFA’s, needing to get a PFA, or defending people who have been wrongfully accused and been served a temporary PFA in Erie, Harborcreek, Cory, Girard, and surrounding areas in PA. As a PFA attorney, Damon C. Hopkins has experience working with the PFA laws in Pennsylvania and devotes his time and effort to find the best solution for every case.
What are the Requirements to Obtain a PFA in Pennsylvania?
There is a common misconception that any individual can obtain a PFA against another individual. In reality, only a specific group of people can obtain a PFA against someone who harasses them. PFA’s are administered under two Pennsylvania statutory sections, which determines the PFA’s reach and limitations. The two Pennsylvania statutory sections are:
- “Domestic Abuse” situations
- “Sexual Violence by a Stranger” situations
Pennsylvania law, specifically 23 Pa.C.S. Section 6102, defines “Abuse,” “Victim,” and other terms for the reader to clearly understand the text of the law. With doing so, the Protection from Abuse statute dictates who can request a PFA in PA. In order to obtain a PFA, the abuser must have been one of the following to the victim:
- A family or household members
- A sexual or intimate partners
- A person who share biological parenthood
Thus, the “Domestic Relations” section does not allow a PFA to be ordered against a stranger, co-worker, etc.
Section 6102 also dictates under what circumstances a PFA can be given. In Pennsylvania, a PA PFA can be given only when the perpetrator has engaged the victim in one or more of the following:
- 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 with or without a deadly weapon.
- Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
- The infliction of false imprisonment pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. Section 2903 (relating to false imprisonment).
- Physically or sexually abusing minor children, including such terms as defined in Chapter 63 (relating to child protective services).
- Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. The definition of this paragraph applies only to proceedings commenced under this title and is inapplicable to any criminal prosecutions commenced under Title 18(relating to crimes and offenses.)
Sexual Violence by a Stranger
Pennsylvania broadened its PFA law on July 15, 2015, through statute at 42 Pa.C.S. section 62A01. Section 62A01 protects victims of “sexual violence” or “intimidation.” “Sexual violence” is defined as “conduct constituting a crime under any of the following provisions between persons who are not family or household members.” Meanwhile, “intimidation” is defined as “conduct constituting a crime under either of the following provisions between persons who are not family or household members”(Pennsylvania General Assembly.) “Sexual violence” and “intimidation” relates to various sexual crimes and covers sexual crimes that occur outside of family or household members, which the domestic relations section does not address. In short, unlike domestic relations situations, sexual violence by a stranger situations protects non-family or household members.
The Process of Requesting a PFA in Pennsylvania
The process for obtaining a PFA in Pennsylvania is relatively quick. Nevertheless, each county follows a different process to receive a PFA order. For example, Erie County in a non-emergency situation will have a victim go to the PFA office and request a Protection from Abuse Order. A judge will determine to grant or deny a temporary Protection from Abuse Order. Whether denied or granted, the victim and the alleged perpetrator will have a right to a hearing for a final determination to be made. Assuming a temporary order is issued, the temporary PFA will last up to 10 days, within which time a Judge schedules a final hearing where both sides will present their positions and evidence. To obtain a PFA in Erie County, PA, go to Erie County’s Office of Protection from Abuse.
Advantages of Consenting to a PFA
It is important to note that the two parties, typically through their attorneys, can avoid a PFA hearing and agree to the terms and length of the PFA, the maximum still being three years. Reaching an agreement without a trial can benefit both the victim and the perpetrator. The victim does not risk the Judge dismissing the PFA, obtains a court order making the PFA final for his or her protection, and avoids having to testify. The alleged perpetrator does not admit to any of the underlying PFA facts and is merely agreeing to stay away from the victim. Overall, PFA’s can have significant effects on both the victim and the alleged perpetrator’s life. Contact Attorney Damon C. Hopkins for an experienced PFA Lawyer to represent you in Pennsylvania.
Choosing PFA Attorney Damon C. Hopkins
Attorney Hopkins understands that each PFA case is unique and he takes the time to understand your particular situation and will develop solutions that meet your needs. As both a fighter and fixer, Damon C. Hopkins possesses a sophisticated legal knowledge that allows him to handle a wide range of legal matters. If you find yourself in need of an attorney to help obtain a PFA or defend against one, and are located anywhere in Erie County, Pennsylvania, including the City of Erie, Corry, Fairview, Girard, Harborcreek, Millcreek, North East, or any other surrounding areas, it is important to remember that you are not alone. At Hopkins Law, we understand that you’re in a difficult situation and need a PFA lawyer that cares about you and gives you honest, straightforward advice about potential outcomes and how to proceed.