On October 31, the last day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the long-awaited Protection From Abuse (PFA) Act amendments (HB 1717). By a unanimous vote, the State House concurred with the Senate and sent the bill on to the Governor for his signature. The PFA related amendments will take effect in 180 days from the date of signing.
As passed, HB 1717 strengthens the effectiveness and enforcement of protection orders and enhances the safety of domestic violence victims and their children. Specifically, the legislation amends the Protection From Abuse Act to do the following:
- Give the Court discretion to order a PFA defendant to relinquish all firearms, not to exceed the duration of a PFA order;
- Offer accountability measures for defendants who fail to abide by the PFA order;
- Provide defendants with the option of relinquishing firearms to a third party of his/her choosing for safekeeping and provide accountability measures for those parties safekeeping firearms;
- Standardize the process for the return of firearms at the conclusion of a PFA order;
- Expand the duration of PFA orders from 18 to 36 months;
- Give judges the discretion to order supervised probation of not more than six months to a defendant who violated the terms and conditions of a PFA order;
- Remove victim fees associated with PFA proceedings;
- Refine provisions associated with authority and jurisdiction, giving law enforcement officers greater authority to follow through with the arrest of domestic violence offenders; and
- Directs the court to consider any risk posed by the defendant to the children, as well as risk to the plaintiff, when awarding temporary custody or temporary visitation rights with regard to minor children.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence recognizes that without the unwavering leadership of Governor Edward G. Rendell, Representatives Katie True (R-Lancaster) and Kathy Manderino (D-Philadelphia) and Senators Jane Earll (R-Erie) and Michael O’Pake (D-Berks), these lifesaving measures would not have been enacted at this time. PCADV commends Governor Rendell and the Legislature for taking action to make Pennsylvania safer for its citizens.
Please click here for a copy of House Bill 1717 as passed