Justin McShane: One of the trickiest situations that Pennsylvania law abiding gun owners find themself in is PFA or protection from abuse orders.
There are three different types of protection of abuse orders. There’s an emergency PFA, a temporary PFA and a final PFA. The final PFA is after you’ve had the opportunity to tell your side to the court if you want to, present evidence and have a full-blown due process type of hearing in front of the Court of Common Pleas.
If a final PFA is ordered against you, then you cannot own, possession, use or transfer a firearm once that order’s put into play. Once that order’s put into play, you’ll have 24 hours of the service of that order to be dispossessed of typically not only just firearms but also ammunition. And it can go to one of three places, a local sheriff who’s willing to take it, an FFL and then a third party who has to filed what’s called a certificate of safekeeping. All of these three people have to certify that you’re not going to get it for as long as a final PFA is in place.
A final PFA can last up to three years and under certain circumstances can go even longer and get renewed. The two other types of PFAs, the emergency PFAs and temporary PFAs are very important to understand. Those are the type of PFAs that are entered either by a magisterial district justice in the case of an emergency PFA or a Court of Common Pleas judge in the case of a temporary PFA. You have no right to be there. You don’t get to tell your side of the story. It’s just basically someone comes in and accuses you, and they get a PFA.
In that case you’re not automatically dispossessed of a firearm, unless the judge whether magisterial district judge of Common Pleas judge says that there’s to be no guns and ammunition.
Usually, usually the victims’ advocates will argue and put that in automatically. That can be challenged, and you can show that there’s no rational relation to the alleged conduct in order to dispossess you of your firearms, but you should be aware that once that’s put in place with those conditions, guns and ammo are going to be not allowed in your possession.
What happens most of the time is that very quickly after the PFA is entered, probably even before it’s served to you, it’s going to find its way into PICS or NICS. So, you have to be very careful if you’re involved even closely with any sort of incident because it will get in PICS or it will get in NICS, and it will have a problem for you if you’re going to transfer a firearm or buy a firearm because of how quick what we call the PFAD system is. It gets in real quick, even before service.
So, when it comes to PFAs, you have to get an attorney that’s involved with it that knows very much a lot about it because it’s not just generally to anyone out there on the planet earth. It has to be to a specific class of people, basically people who live in your house or people that you have an intimate relationship with or had one with and has to be only for certain amount of conduct. Only certain specific things will give rise to a PFA. It has to be within a certain period of time.
PFA is so powerful here in Pennsylvania because it can dispossess you of your right to have and own and use a firearm and ammo even if you don’t get your day in court. So, this is something that’s very important we have to harp on just to make sure that you’re on the right side of the law.