An emotional situation for everyone: getting served with a Protection From Abuse order

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LANCASTER, Pa. -- When someone gets a temporary Protection From Abuse order, it can be an emotional situation for everyone involved.

That was the case when 37-year-old Darren Hatcher attacked his wife, shot her boyfriend in the leg and then shot and killed himself. This was just hours after receiving a temporary PFA.

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said, "The problem is when you have those rare cases and they end up with death, you have to make sure you're constantly looking at things. Can we do better? Can we do more?"

For Stedman, that begins with a pamphlet that sheriffs can hand out when they serve a PFA. The goal is to get those people to calm down who may not understand exactly what the order means.

He said, "If one person is reading it and it calms them down and lets them see the bigger picture, that the person will be able to go in front of the judge - we'll be better off."

Christine Pfau Laney, the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic Coordinator, said there could always be improvements made to the PFA process. One suggestion is to take weapons owned by the person receiving the PFA away immediately, instead of within 24 hours as the law currently states.

Laney said, "Obviously legislative change to make it quicker would be helpful. I think the ability of law enforcement to search and obtain some kind of reasonable access to the home where the weapons may be."

People concerned about victims of domestic violence want to make sure that something like what happened in Mountville doesn't happen again.

Laney said, "If the sheriffs get them out and get them served, they're very good at getting the weapons. And I think we've been very fortunate that this is not something that's occurred often."

Stedman said, "The difficulty is you want to have the ability to protect the people who are actually victims, and you want to cut down on abuse, and it's hard to do that in the world today and in our justice system."

Victims should know that a Domestic Violence Legal Clinic can offer ways to protect them after someone is served with a PFA.


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