CRIMES CODE (18 PA.C.S.) AND DOMESTIC RELATIONS CODE (23 PA.C.S.) – OMNIBUS AMENDMENTS
Act 79 went into effect on April 10, 2019. This law includes improvements to Pennsylvania’s PFA Act and deals primarily with increased safety provisions related to firearms in both Protection From Abuse (23. PA C.S.) and misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence (18 PA. C.S) to help prevent domestic violence homicides.
Primary changes under Title 23 include:
- All final PFAs adjudicated in court by a judge now require weapons relinquishment. Final PFAs entered by agreement by consent do not require automatic weapons relinquishment.
- Friends and family members no longer qualify as eligible safekeepers for firearms relinquishment.
- In lieu of friends and family members, defendants may relinquish to an appropriate law enforcement agency (in the county in which they reside), a commercial armory, or a licensed attorney (defendant must have an existing client/attorney relationship and the attorney cannot be a family member).
- A defendant may request the return of firearms upon the dismissal or expiration of the PFA, but must meet certain conditions. The plaintiff must be notified of the request.
- Codifies law enforcement accompaniment for the plaintiff during service of the PFA.
- Without having to prove new instances of abuse, a plaintiff may extend a PFA against an incarcerated individual who has or will be released from custody within 90 days.
Primary changes under Title 18 include:
- The period in which to relinquish weapons for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence has been reduced from 60 days to 24 hours.
- As is the currently the case under federal law, a final PFA Order, whether entered by order or agreement, is a “qualifying protective order” under 18 U.S.C. 922 (g) (8) prohibiting the defendant from possessing or acquiring a firearm while the order is in effect, even if the PFA did not order firearms relinquishment. Act 79 makes this enforceable under state law.
- Failure to relinquish firearms pursuant to a PFA Order or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence conviction is a 2nd degree misdemeanor. Further, upon conviction for failure to relinquish pursuant to a PFA, the defendant will be prohibited from owning/possessing/acquiring a firearm for an additional five years from the date of conviction, final release from confinement, or final release from supervision, whichever is later.