An act of domestic violence is defined by the victim. Violent crimes enacted against a person that falls under the category of a "household member" are considered domestic violence crimes under Pennsylvania law. Household members are typically relatives, parents, children, current or former spouses, current or former intimate partners, or a person sharing a child. Domestic violence cases are complex and can impact a person across several aspects of their life. In Chester County, the court will resolve these cases in both the criminal court and family court divisions of the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, located in West Chester, PA.
Chester County Domestic Violence Crimes
Many different types of criminal acts will be considered a domestic violence crime. Common examples of domestic violence crimes can include:
- Terroristic threats: Causing a person through actions or words to fear for their safety, or to fear imminent physical bodily harm, can be a crime of domestic violence
- Pattern of abuse: Repeatedly and consistently demonstrating abusive or violent behavior towards a household member may be considered a pattern of abuse
- False imprisonment: Confining a person to a limited space without proper reasoning or legal authority to do so can be a domestic violence crime, especially if threats or violence are involved
- Sexual assault: Non-consensual sexual contact in any forms can be considered sexual assault
- Rape: If a person forces through threat or physical force non-consensual intercourse on a person, it is rape
- Assault: Infliction of any bodily harm on an individual, with or without a deadly weapon falls under the crime of assault
Chester County Domestic Violence Police Authority
In Chester County, police are granted certain extra authority when responding to situations that may involve domestic violence. The law allows an officer to make an arrest for domestic violence even if he does not see the act occur. The officer must make a judgment based on what evidence is at the scene, which can include anything from injuries to either party, to any disheveled or broken objects in sight. Police officers will often make a judgment and an arrest before fully making an assessment of the situation, only basing their decision on what they see. In addition, if anyone has violated a Protection from Abuse (PFA), the officer will likely make an arrest right away.
After a Domestic Violence Arrest in Chester County
Domestic violence charges in Chester County will generally first be addressed at a preliminary hearing in one of the 18 Chester County Magisterial District Courts. A magisterial district justice will preside over the matter, and the case against the person charged with domestic violence offenses will be prosecuted by a representative of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; generally an assistant district attorney from the Chester County District Attorney's Office, which is located in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
At a domestic violence preliminary hearing in Chester County, charges can be dismissed, withdrawn, or "held for court," meaning that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has met their burden against the defendant and that the case will move forward. If a domestic violence offense in Chester County is "held for court" at a preliminary hearing, a formal arraignment date will be scheduled at the Chester County Court of Common Pleas in West Chester, PA. Thereafter, a domestic violence case will generally either go to trial or be resolved through non-trial disposition, which is generally through an agreement between the Chester County District Attorney's Office, the defendant, the defendant's attorney, and the judge. At the applicable time, domestic violence charges may also be withdrawn or dismissed in some instances.
The Chester County Court of Common Pleas is located at 201 W. Market Street, West Chester, PA 19380.
Chester County Domestic Violence Defense Attorney | Defense Lawyer for Domestic Violence in West Chester
Domestic violence charges can be complex and confusing. Because of their nature, domestic violence crimes typically involve the court at two levels: the criminal level and the family law level. A person charged with a domestic violence offense may suffer repercussions on both of these fronts. In addition, domestic violence charges can prevent a person from owning a firearm, and may interfere with any ongoing custody or divorce proceedings, and even prospective future proceedings.