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PFA's: A Civil Action That May Lead to Serious Criminal Consequences


Frank Walker Law - Pittsburgh PFA Attorney

People accused of domestic violence can face criminal charges ranging from summary charges of Harassment; to misdemeanor charges such as Simple Assault, Disorderly Conduct, & Terroristic Threats; up to felony charges such as Aggravated Assault. However, in addition to, or potentially in the absence of potential criminal penalties, there are potential civil consequences in domestic disputes to deal with.

A protection from abuse order (PFA) is a civil remedy pursued by the victim of abuse that occurs between family members, household members, siblings, and sexual/intimate partners. Any of the previously mentioned people who has been subjected to abuse may take civil action against the perpetrator. The PFA Act defines abuse to include physical harm, threats of bodily injury, false imprisonment, physical or sexual violence, and/or stalking.

In order for a PFA to be established against a party, the person bringing the action must show by a preponderance of the evidence that they were subjected to abuse as defined above. This is a far lower standard than the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. A preponderance of the evidence merely means that the petitioner must show that it is more likely than not that the abuse occurred. Given that standard, it is easy to see why in a majority of cases, the PFA petition is granted. There is often a crying victim on the stand alleging physical or sexual abuse, and few judges want to be the one to deny a PFA and then have the unthinkable happen and the victim of abuse be harmed or even killed at a later date.

Its because of the potential outcomes of alleged abuse that proceedings move extremely quickly in PFA actions. Often the responding officers to the scene will provide the alleged victim with resources to file an emergency petition, and a hearing will be held within days of filing of that petition. The emergency petition has the effect of establishing a temporary PFA order until that hearing. The establishment of a PFA can lead to the loss of the ability to own or possess firearms, eviction from one's own house, and inability to have contact with the alleged victim or your own children. It can affect child custody issues as well. These consequences can last up to three years and potentially longer if the order is extended down the road. A violation of a PFA can lead to charges of indirect criminal contempt punishable with up to six months in jail for each offense.

Due to the severe repercussions and rapid disposition of PFA petitions, it is essential that you have an attorney by your side at the very beginning. The petitioner will often have an attorney provided free of charge from the government. Going it alone will leave you exposed and possibly outmatched. That's where Frank Walker Law comes in. Attorney Frank Walker is available on short notice and has experience representing people accused of abuse in both criminal and civil actions. You need an attorney you can trust who will fight for you. Phone lines are open 24/7 at 412-532-6805 to better serve you even on limited notice.

Attorney Frank Walker of Frank Walker Law is a National Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer and Personal Injury Attorney with offices in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and Morgantown West Virginia. Attorney Walker is also a member of the National College for DUI Defense and qualified as a Pennsylvania Death Penalty Defense Attorney.

If you or someone you love are facing criminal charges or seriously injured in an accident in WV or PA, contact Attorney Frank Walker immediately at 412-532-6805 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for aggressive and experienced Criminal Defense or Representation in a Civil Case.