Standard of Proof in Protection from Abuse Cases

If someone is the victim of abuse or sexual violence, then he or she can get protective orders from a court without the need to file a criminal complaint.

The Protection from Abuse Act, passed in 1990, allowed protective orders like this independent of any criminal charges. Prior to this law, victims of abuse could only seek protective orders through a criminal case. To obtain a protection from abuse order, the person seeking protection must meet the legal standard of proof. The legal standard of proof is the level of proof needed in a case to win it. If you have questions about protection from abuse proceedings, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

What Is A Protection From Abuse Order?

A protection from abuse (PFA) order is a protective order that an alleged victim of abuse or sexual violence can petition for from a court in Pennsylvania. The person seeking protection is called the petitioner, while the defendant is the one being accused of wrongdoing. To obtain a protection from abuse order, the petitioner must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that abuse or sexual violence took place. If a protection from abuse order is granted by the court, then the defendant will be restrained from several activities and will typically be prohibited from having contact with the petitioner. If the provisions in a protection from abuse order are not followed, then the defendant is subject to arrest and criminal prosecution.

What Are the Different Types of Protection From Abuse Orders?

There are two types of protection from abuse orders in Pennsylvania, temporary and final orders. These orders both have the same authority but can be valid for different amounts of time. Temporary and final protection abuse orders are determined after different and separate legal processes.

  • Temporary Protection From Abuse: The first available protection from abuse order is a temporary protection from abuse order. Petitioners can seek a temporary order by filling out a petition that outlines the relationship between the parties and the alleged actions of the defendant. The court will hold a hearing with just the petitioner to determine whether the temporary order should be granted. A petitioner must meet the legal standard of proof to earn a temporary protection order. Once a temporary protection from abuse order is granted, then the judge will set a date for a final protection from abuse hearing. This hearing typically takes place within ten days.
  • Final Protection From Abuse: Final protection from abuse orders are a more powerful version of temporary protection from abuse orders. These orders are only granted after a full hearing that includes both sides takes place. In a final protection from abuse hearing, the petitioner will be expected to present a case to the judge to convince him or her that abuse or sexual violence took place, and that protection from the court is necessary for the petitioner. If the judge is convinced that the petitioner met the legal standard of proof, then a final protection from abuse order can be granted that can last for up to three years.

The Standard of Proof Explained

The legal standard of proof is how much someone needs to prove their case in order to win a case that he or she filed. In a criminal case, the prosecutor files criminal charges against the defendant, so it is the prosecutor's responsibility to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. In a protection from abuse case, the petitioner has the responsibility to prove the case by a preponderance of the evidence. There are different legal standards of proof required in different types of cases. Defendants do not have the burden of proving anything in a case and are not required to do so. Theoretically, a defendant can sit there quietly and not question any witnesses and can still win his or her case if the burden of proof is not met. A plaintiff/petitioner cannot win a case in this fashion.

The Burden of Proof Required in Protection From Abuse Cases

In a protection from abuse case, the petitioner must meet a preponderance of the evidence standard to be granted a protection from abuse order. The preponderance of evidence means that it is more likely than not that the petitioner's version of events is true. This means that the judge believes it is more likely than not that the petitioner's story is the truth. To accomplish this, a petitioner must submit evidence that can include both physical evidence and testimony.

The petitioner carries the legal standard of proof and must demonstrate that the allegations of abuse or sexual violence took place and were committed by the defendant. The petitioner also carries the burden of proof to demonstrate that continued court protection is needed through a protection from abuse order. The preponderance of evidence standard is lower than the standard to criminally convict the defendant, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The lower standard of proof required in protection from abuse cases is often a reason why petitioners are attracted to seeking a protective order over filing criminal charges. If you have legal questions, then call us at the Lento Law Firm so we can help!

Contact the Lento Law Firm Today

If you have questions about protection from abuse orders, then make sure you speak to an experienced attorney. It is important you understand the legal requirements for a protection from abuse order to be granted. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have the experience you need to help put you in the best position to defend your case. To learn why the Lento Law Firm is the right choice, call us at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience practicing Family Law in Pennsylvania. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Family Law Attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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