Victims of Domestic Violence in Alabama often obtain a Protection From Abuse Order, commonly referred to as a PFA. A PFA is a type of restraining order meant to be quasi-criminal in nature in that law enforcement officers will intervene if the party enjoined by the PFA engages in conduct that is prohibited by it. Additionally, the party that violates a PFA is guilty of a misdemeanor and faces fines and jail time because of it.
Beginning July 1, 2010, the Alabama Law providing protection from domestic abuse has been expanded to allow parties to file for the protection even if they are not married to or have children with the alleged abuser. Prior to this change, dating couples who did not live together were not able to file for a PFA and would have to rely on a civil restraining order which would not be enforced by law enforcement.
In 2009, statistics showed that approximately 40 percent of all domestic assaults were committed against a boyfriend or girlfriend. In my own practice I have received numerous calls from individuals who were being harassed or threatened by an ex boyfriend or girlfriend and wanted some type of protection. In most cases I would have to explain that there was no good recourse for them because they did not fall into a category of relationships that was covered by a PFA.
It certainly remains to be seen how the courts will treat these new PFA applicants. I am sure that the judges will require some level of proof that there actually was a dating relationship between the parties. In any event, this sounds like really good news for these often overlooked victims in our state.