Spivak Law Firm | Pittsburgh, PA

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Indiana County PFA Lawyer

PFA and Criminal Charges


PFA Pic1If you’ve been accused of perpetrating domestic violence or child abuse, you may be facing a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order and criminal charges such as assault, harassment, stalking, or terroristic threats.

At Spivak Law Firm, we generally advise our clients to continue the PFA hearing until after the criminal case is resolved. The district attorney could use the PFA hearing transcript against you in criminal court.

Based in Pittsburgh, Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive representation for clients in Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Indiana County, Greene County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County.

If you face a PFA or criminal domestic-violence charges, call Spivak Law Firm to schedule a free consultation at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Served with a PFA On Thanksgiving?


pfa-pic1Thanksgiving is a time to relax and feast with family and friends, but everyone has a relative with whom they don’t quite get along. Spending extended periods of time together could lead to conflict.

If you’re served with a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order during the holidays, call Spivak Law Firm to speak with an experienced PFA attorney. A PFA is a powerful tool that can evict you from your home, restrict you from your kids, threaten your job, take away your guns, and lead to your arrest.

Many attorneys are not accessible during the holidays, but Spivak Law Firm always remains available by telephone even on Thanksgiving Day. If you’ve been served with a PFA, we understand that you are likely under significant stress. We are here to help.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive defense at PFA hearings in Pittsburgh and all surrounding counties, including: Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Greene County, Indiana County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County.

For a free consultation, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Avoid PFA Violations

pfa-pic3If a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order has been filed against you, you must follow it. Never contact or attempt to pass messages to the plaintiff, even if the contact is non-threatening.

A mere accusation that you violated an active PFA will lead to your arrest. You may then be criminally charged and face a potential six-month jail sentence for Indirect Criminal Contempt.

If you already have criminal charges relating to the same incident that gave rise to the PFA, then the alleged PFA violation could demonstrate to a judge that you intend to continue harassing and abusing the plaintiff.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive defense at PFA and ICC hearings. For a free consultation call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Domestic Violence Warning Signs

dv-pic5Domestic violence experts increasingly aim to identify “red flags” that often precede homicides and murder-suicides where abuse is present.

Warning signs include: strangulation, stalking behavior, sexual violence, gun possession, unemployment, substance abuse, and prior attempts by the victim to end the relationship.

Previous abuse by the suspect is the strongest of these “red flags,” according to experts.

Spivak Law Firm handles all areas of family law with a special focus on domestic violence and Protection From Abuse (PFA). Call us at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

PFA and Criminal Records

PFA Pic8Q: Will a Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order appear on my criminal record?

A: No.

A PFA is a civil matter that appears on the family court docket along with documents relating to divorce and child custody. It will not appear on the criminal docket, though employers increasingly review both dockets when making hiring decisions.

A PFA is not a criminal matter, though it can become one if you are merely accused of violating the Order. A PFA violation can lead to the charge of Indirect Criminal Contempt (ICC), which carries a six-month jail sentence and $1,000.00 fine.

Spivak Law Firm handles all PFA, criminal, and expungement matters. Call us today at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Crack Down on Domestic Violence In Pittsburgh

PFA Pic9The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published the following article by Attorney Todd Spivak, owner of Spivak Law Firm, which handles all areas of family law and criminal defense with an emphasis on child custody and Protection From Abuse (PFA).

Maureen Karr got a temporary protection-from-abuse order against her husband on grounds that he threatened to burn their house down. Two weeks later, according to police, James Karr made good on his promise and his wife died in the fire.

In Pennsylvania, more than 150 people die every year from incidents involving domestic violence. Astonishingly, Allegheny County for two straight years has tallied more domestic-violence fatalities than any other Pennsylvania county, even Philadelphia. In 2013, there were 28 domestic-violence related deaths in Allegheny County, representing nearly one-fifth of such fatalities statewide, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“Some conclude that PFAs are useless, that they’re just a piece of paper,” says Spenser Baca, a third-year student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law who represented Maureen Karr at a PFA hearing hours before she was killed. “But PFAs help the majority of clients.”

In December, after 14 years of marriage, Maureen Karr told her husband she wanted a divorce. According to her PFA order, James Karr flipped out: he broke her stuff, slashed her car tires and threatened to set fire to their home in Duquesne. Ms. Karr took refuge at a neighbor’s house and called police. James Karr was arrested, briefly incarcerated and charged with public intoxication.

Charges of harassment and terroristic threats would have served Ms. Karr better. James Karr’s bond conditions did not even include a restraining order.

So, on Dec. 15, Maureen Karr obtained the temporary order that evicted her husband from their home and prohibited all contact. “He was threatening to set the house on fire,” Maureen hand-wrote in the PFA petition.

Similarly, last September, Nancy Bour of Ross Township wrote on a PFA petition against her husband: “Threatened to burn the house down if I try to get divorce.” The next day, according to police, Thomas Bour poured gasoline on their house and set it ablaze. Thomas Bour faces trial next month on multiple felony charges of arson and risking catastrophe.

Defendants always make threats,” says Mr. Baca. “It’s surreal when they make true on their threats.”

On Dec. 29, Maureen and James Karr appeared separately on the third floor of family court Downtown. Ms. Karr sought a final PFA order lasting three years — the maximum allowed under Pennsylvania law. But a hearing never occurred, as the defendant suddenly dropped to the floor and convulsed violently. Although James Karr receives disability benefits based on a seizure disorder, Mr. Baca suspects he faked a seizure to avoid the hearing. The parties left the courthouse without even seeing a judge.

In Allegheny County, court administrators estimate that only 5 percent of PFA cases ever go before a judge for a final hearing. Attorneys frequently work out agreements and draft court orders signed by the parties. An administrator will stamp a judge’s signature on them, but there is no direct judicial involvement whatsoever in the vast majority of cases.

Other counties surrounding Pittsburgh handle PFA cases differently. For instance, Westmoreland County judges insist that all parties appear before a judge regardless of how the case is resolved. It’s impossible to know if a judge’s finger-wagging lecture or threat of grave consequences for another infraction would have saved Maureen Karr’s life, but it might have. Allegheny County’s practice of letting administrators stamp court orders must stop.

Moreover, to promote consistency, Allegheny County should have specialized judges with extensive domestic-violence training to handle all PFA hearings. That’s how PFA cases are handled in Philadelphia County, which saw its number of domestic-violence fatalities drop by 33 percent last year.

This is also how things are done across the street in criminal court, where just two judges oversee all of Allegheny County’s domestic-violence cases. But for PFA hearings, 17 family court judges and three senior judges take turns, ensuring an egregious lack of consistency in court rulings.

On Dec. 30, just hours after appearing in court, James Karr showed up at the couple’s red-brick house set on an orange-brick street. The temporary PFA order remained in place, but, according to police, James Karr went in, slammed his wife’s head against a wall, knocking her unconscious, then tied her wrists with floral wire used for making Christmas wreaths, doused her with her favorite Smirnoff vanilla-flavored vodka and lit a match.

Maureen Karr died from smoke inhalation and carbon-monoxide poisoning. James Karr, a South Park native, has been charged with criminal homicide and aggravated arson. The Allegheny County district attorney’s office plans to argue for the death penalty.

It is impossible to know if Maureen Karr’s death might have been prevented. But immediate action should be taken to curb the number of domestic-violence fatalities in Allegheny County. Increased involvement at PFA hearings by judges with advanced training in domestic-violence cases, and the tougher rulings that likely would result, could make the difference.

To speak with an experienced PFA attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

Despite PFA, Pittsburgh Wife Brutally Murdered

111787230A Protection From Abuse (PFA) Order is a powerful tool that restricts an abuser from having any contact with his or her victim under threat of arrest.

But, tragically, a PFA in some cases is still just a piece of paper.

On New Year’s Day, a man from Duquesne was charged with homicide and arson for setting a fire that killed his wife. According to news reports, the man tied her up, poured vodka on her, and lit the alcohol.

Two weeks earlier, she had obtained a Temporary PFA against him. But the PFA did not save her life.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive representation for plaintiffs and defendants at PFA hearings in Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Clarion County, Fayette County, Indiana County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County.

To speak with an experienced PFA lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

PFAs Granted For Roommates, Lovers, Relatives

86505316You can only get a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order against someone you’re related to, right?


Pennsylvania law states that a PFA can be granted against “family or household members, sexual or intimate partners, or persons who share biological parenthood.”

Thus, you can get a PFA against your roommate, your boyfriend/girlfriend, your brother/sister, your parent, your child, or your spouse.

In some states, like California, a person can get a restraining order against a stranger. For instance, movie stars sometimes resort to such orders to prevent stalking by fans. Pennsylvania law does not go that far.

Spivak Law Firm provides strong, aggressive advocacy for plaintiffs and defendants in PFA cases in Pittsburgh and all nearby counties, including: Allegheny County, Washington County, Beaver County, Butler County, Westmoreland County, Indiana County, Clarion County, and Fayette County. To speak with an experienced PFA attorney, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

When Filing a PFA Petition May Be Improper

You may not file a Protection From Abuse (PFA) petition:

–Against someone who is merely your neighbor or an acquaintance;

–To stop mental abuse, emotional abuse, or property destruction;

–To obtain a custody order or to resolve a custody dispute.

A PFA Order is a powerful tool for restricting an abuser from contacting his or her victim, but it is not appropriate in every circumstance.

To schedule a free consultation with an experienced PFA lawyer, call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.

PFA Orders Trump Right to Own Guns

In Pennsylvania, Protection From Abuse (PFA) Orders obliterate a person’s constitutional right to possess firearms. A person served with a PFA is immediately ordered to:

–Relinquish to the sheriff any of the defendant’s firearms;

–Relinquish to the sheriff any other weapons or ammunition of the defendant that were used or threatened to have been used in an incident of abuse against the victim or the victim’s children;

–Relinquish any firearm license that the defendant may have;

–Not acquire or possess any other firearm for the duration of the PFA;

When relinquishment is ordered, the defendant must surrender any firearm, weapon, ammunition, or license ordered within 24 hours after service of the temporary PFA order or 24 hours after entry of the final PFA order.

The defendant has the option to relinquish for safekeeping to a third party, who has signed an Affidavit of accountability with the sheriff’s office.

Served with a PFA? We strongly defend your rights and reputation. Call Spivak Law Firm at (412) 344-4900 or toll free at (800) 545-9390.