Protection from Abuse Orders Defense Attorney
A protection from abuse (PFA) order is a document, issued by a court, that prevents an individual from having any contact with another individual for up to 3-years. The Order is the result of a petition for protection from abuse, which is unilaterally filed by the party that is seeking the protection. The protection sought can relate to threats or risk of physical violence as well as sexual violence.
PFA’s are different than criminal charges, however, you often see an alleged victim of domestic violence or sexual assault file for a PFA while the criminal case is still open and active. There are multiple considerations for the defendant in this scenario. First, you don’t want to testify at a PFA proceeding while the criminal case is active because anything said during the PFA hearing can be used against you in the criminal case. However, the PFA hearing also provides a great opportunity to put the alleged victim under oath, about the allegations that gave rise to the criminal case, and the client’s attorney can cross examine the alleged victim during that hearing. If it looks like your criminal case is going to be a trial, the PFA hearing is invaluable.
PFA Order Process
Another important consideration is the process during which the PFA Order is entered. First, the complainant goes before a judge and, under oath, tells the judge that they are scared for their safety and that there is some reasonable threat of imminent violence for which they want protection. If the judge finds that person to be credible, a temporary order is put in effect and shortly after the final protection from abuse hearing will occur.
During the final PFA hearing, the responding party can have an attorney present, which is highly advisable. As these are not criminal proceedings, the burden is lower for the complainant to have the PFA entered against the responding party. Opposed to “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the burden for a criminal case, during a final PFA proceeding, the burden is “preponderance of the evidence,” put differently, more likely than not.
If you have a temporary PFA entered against you, time is short to find counsel. The complainant will have an attorney, fighting to have the final PFA entered against you, as such, it is advisable to have hire an attorney to protect you during the proceeding.