Can you get Protection from Abuse (PFA) Records Expunged?

If you have been subjected to Protection from Abuse (PFA) action, you should be aware that the Court has extraordinary power to order many outcomes, including:

  1. Directing the defendant to refrain from abusing the plaintiff or minor children;
  2. Granting possession to the plaintiff of the residence or household to the exclusion of the defendant by evicting the defendant or restoring possession to the plaintiff if the residence or household is jointly owned or leased by the parties, is owned or leased by the entireties, or is owned or leased solely by the plaintiff;
  3. If the defendant has a duty to support the plaintiff or minor children living in the residence or household and the defendant is the sole owner or lessee, granting possession to the plaintiff of the residence or household to the exclusion of the defendant by evicting the defendant or restoring possession to the plaintiff or, with the consent of the plaintiff, ordering the defendant to provide suitable alternate housing, and/or
  4. Awarding temporary custody of or establishing temporary visitation rights with regard to minor children. In determining whether to award temporary custody or establish temporary visitation rights pursuant to this paragraph, the court shall consider any risk posed by the defendant to the children as well as any risk to the plaintiff.

These restraints and obligations can be ordered immediately, before a defendant has even had an opportunity to defend himself or herself against the underlying accusations. If these allegations have been made against you, it is essential that you obtain experienced counsel to represent you before the PFA Court.

At a Protection from Abuse hearing, the plaintiff will be required to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant committed abuse within the parameters of the PFA Act. If that burden is met, the Court may issue an order mandating any of the above-mentioned requirements.

Abuse is specifically defined by the statute and must be proven at the hearing. Abuse under the PFA Act is defined as the occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners, or persons who share biological parenthood:

  1. 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;
  2. Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
  3. The infliction of false imprisonment;
  4. Physically or sexually abusing minor children, including such terms as defined in Chapter 63 (relating to child protective services); or
  5. Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person without proper authority, under circumstances that 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).

Even if the defendant is successful in defending against the plaintiff’s allegations, the records of that case will remain unless and until the records have been expunged by the court.

So when can those records be expunged? There exists a right to petition for expungement of a Protection from Abuse (PFA) record where the petitioner seeks to protect his or her reputation; this right is an adjunct of due process and the state constitutional right to protect one’s reputation and is not dependent upon express statutory authority. See Carlacci v. Mazaleski, 798 A.2d 186 (Pa. 2002).

So long as the trial court had never issued a permanent order or made any findings of fact that the allegations of abuse had actually happened, the petitioner would be entitled to an expungement of the PFA records.

Essentially, if the defendant won the PFA hearing or the PFA allegations were withdrawn before a hearing on the allegations was held, he or she is entitled to the expungement as a matter of law.

If you have been subjected to the filing of a PFA, it is vitally important that you are represented by competent counsel. If, after a successful defense against those allegations, you seek to have those records expunged, reach out to one of our PFA lawyers at Lancaster Law Group today for a free consultation. We’ll review your case, provide you with legal advice, and, if applicable, petition for the expungement of your PFA records.  

DISCLAIMER – The information contained in this article is for general guidance on the subject matter only. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, and the inherent hazards of electronic communication, there may be delays, omissions or inaccuracies in information in this article. Case summaries are primarily excerpted directly from the decisions authored by the courts. The decisions are cited and linked and the reader is encouraged to read the entire decision. Accordingly, the information in this article is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not herein engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice and services. As such, it should NOT be used as a substitute for consultation with a Lancaster Law Group attorney about this or any other legal issue. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should always consult with a Lancaster Law Group attorney.