A Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order is a legal tool intended to protect domestic violence victims from abuse. Also known as a Restraining Order, a PFA can greatly impact a person's life, whether you have requested the order or have been served with one. In either case, you may prefer as few people as possible to know about it, which may leave you wondering: Can someone find a PFA in the public record?
Protection From Abuse Orders Are Publicly Available
In Pennsylvania, a PFA is part of the public record, but it is not necessarily easily accessible to all. A PFA is a civil order, not a criminal one. That means if an employer or landlord is running a criminal history background check, the PFA generally will not appear. That said, a PFA can be found in civil court records.
Virtually anyone–potential employers, schools, background check companies, landlords, and others–can access the order upon request. PFA case names in the relevant county court database must first be searched to find the PFA proceeding. Afterward, the requesting party must submit a petition from the appropriate Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. Because courts usually do not dispose of files, the requester can obtain old and even expired PFAs. Further, the requester will not only be able to access the PFA but obtain any court pleadings, papers, or other orders associated with the case.
A PFA will also appear in a state-wide registration called the Protection from Abuse Database, which was formed under Section 6105(e) of the Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act in 1997. State and local police use the database to research and enforce orders again registered defendants. New, old, and expired PFAs can be retrieved, but the database is available to law enforcement exclusively.
While PFAs orders are not necessarily easy to obtain, any party to an order should assume that the order can and will be discovered by anyone who diligently looks for it.
PFAs in Criminal History Records
A PFA can appear in a criminal history background check under certain circumstances. If a defendant violates a PFA, even by accident, they can be immediately arrested for criminal contempt. A criminal contempt conviction carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. The conviction will also appear on the offender's criminal history record, which will accordingly reveal the existence of a PFA. Defendants should therefore take all precautions to avoid violating the PFA, as not only will it appear on their criminal record, but it'll make the PFA easier to find.
A Pennsylvania Family Law Lawyer Can Help With Your Restraining Order
If you are seeking a Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse order or you've just been served with one, you need an experienced attorney in your corner to defend your rights. Attorney Joseph Lento has assisted many families in dealing with PFAs and knows how to fight for the best results possible. Contact the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888-535-3686.