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Authors

Kyle Semroc

Abstract

The Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act (PFAA) empowers victims of domestic violence to obtain protection orders through a hearing process. Once the Protection from Abuse (PFA) process is initiated, a statewide registry system automatically generates a civil record. Currently, no statutory language governing the expungement of a PFA record exists in Pennsylvania, and courts have decided that a right to expungement exists only in limited circumstances. The courts are silent, however, on whether a protection order by consent of the parties with no admission of abuse is available for expungement.

This Comment begins by describing the procedure by which a plaintiff files for a protection order and discusses the due process protections embedded within each step of the process. Expungement in the criminal context provides a contrast to the civil context in the subsequent section. Next, this Comment discusses case law related to the expungement of civil records in the PFA context. Finally, an analysis of relevant PFA case law reveals that a protection order by consent with no admission of abuse likely cannot be expunged from a defendant’s civil record.

The purpose of the PFAA is to stop current abuse and prevent instances of further abuse. If a consent order could be expunged from a civil record, a defendant may be significantly more willing to agree to such an order and, thus, the court would be able to serve the best interests of the victims of domestic abuse.

Therefore, a PFA attorney should be able to efficiently and effectively settle a PFA matter before the dispute ever reaches the final hearing; the potential for expungement would provide a PFA attorney with a powerful tool for settlement and, thus, the Pennsylvania Legislature should amend the PFAA to include an expungement provision. Because expungement is presently not available for consent orders, this Comment proposes amending the PFAA and two additional alternatives to circumvent the prohibition on expungement.

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