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Expungement of Protection from Abuse Act Records

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A defendant in a Protection from Abuse Act ("PFAA") may have the inherent right to have their record expunged.

By Jeffrey B. Engle, PFA Lawyer, Harrisburg, PA

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Carlacci v. Mazaleski, 568 Pa. 471, 798 A.2d 186, 2002 Pa. LEXIS 1145 (2002) determined that a PFAA petition filed against a PFAA defendant must be expunged when it has been dismissed by court order or when the PFAA proceedings never evolved beyond the temporary order stage.

In this case, Carlacci, the mother of a child, filed a PFAA petition against Mazaleski, the father.  The parties resolved the PFAA by agreeing to a custody order and the court issued an order declaring the PFAA action "null and void" (it never happened).  Mazaleski sought to have the trial court expunge his record of the PFAA.  Carlacci opposed claiming that there was no statutory mechanism in the PFAA to allow for such.  The trial court denied Mazaleski's request.  He appealed to the Superior Court, which affirmed the trial court.  The Supreme Court reversed.

Why Expungement?

Expungement means that the records are "wiped clean" of any record of the PFAA having ever been filed.  The Supreme Court, citing to the Pennsylvania Constitution determined that all men/women have the right to a reputation.  Collateral consequences can flow from a PFAA.  The trial court may consider it in a subsequent matter.  It's a public record that is accessible by the general public, employers and news media.  Further, law enforcement agencies, such as the State Police, FBI, TSA and Sheriff's departments maintain these records in their databases.

How Do I Get My Record Expunged?

You must file a petition in the court of common pleas where the PFAA was issued.  The court should grant your request when the petition was dismissed at or prior to a hearing.  The court may also grant expungement even after a final order based upon a "balancing test."

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