The Lancaster County Sheriff and District Attorney are continuing a project aimed at providing direction and resources to individuals served with protection-from-abuse orders - in efforts to prevent potentially criminal reactions.
Sheriff Chris Leppler and District Attorney Craig Stedman feel the informative pamphlets already have, and will continue to, make differences in these high-tension situations.
The sheriff’s office distributes the pamphlets attached to the actual PFA order.
Sheriff Leppler’s office has already handed out hundreds of pamphlets and recently received a shipment of 1,000 more pamphlets.
District Attorney Stedman conceived the idea and handles the pamphlets’ production, seeing them as a crime-prevention tool and one that could save lives.
Approximately 900 individuals are served with PFAs issued by the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas each year; the District Attorney’s Office prosecutes roughly 200 violations of these orders annually.
Being served with a PFA can be a shocking experience for an individual. The information provided in the pamphlet directs the individual’s attention to their legal rights and available resources, while emphasizing the importance of following the court order.
A violation – such as contacting the protected person directly or through a third-party - can land an offender in prison.
“These pamphlets answer the important questions and provide crucial information which can shift a person’s anger and frustration toward a peaceful understanding of the situation,” District Attorney Stedman said this week.
Sheriff Leppler’s deputies have been distributing the pamphlets since he was elected sheriff.
“The pamphlets dispel myths associated with PFAs which can be misunderstood and confusing,” Sheriff Leppler said. “They also provide resources for appropriate navigation of the PFA process.”
Stedman credits Sheriff Leppler and Lancaster County President Judge Dennis Reinaker for their collaboration on the project.
“While it happens too often, we do not want to arrest anyone for breaking a PFA order,” Stedman said, stressing that violations are still being prosecuted. “The goal is to protect and minimize chances for a violent interaction.
“We recognize the volatility of the moment someone is served with a PFA and this is a tool to calm the person down and let them know this is temporary, what their options are, and to not do anything rash.”
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