Domestic battery is one of the most common types of domestic violence--the one that impacts the most families. However, the term itself may be confusing because some states use the words "assault and battery" to describe separate crimes while others seem to use the terms interchangeably. If a spouse, dating partner, or family member accuses you of domestic battery in Pennsylvania, what does that mean, exactly? What crime could you be charged with, and what might be the consequences if you're convicted? For that matter, what are the other possible consequences? Could you lose custody of your children? Could you have a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) issued against you that prevents you from having contact with your spouse or family?
Domestic Violence Defense Attorney in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania takes allegations of domestic violence seriously, and the consequences of a charge can be devastating, even if you are falsely accused--and even if you end up not being convicted of a crime. Attorney Joseph D. Lento understands Pennsylvania's laws regarding domestic violence and domestic battery, and he will work to protect your rights. To schedule a consultation, call 888-535-3686.
What Is Domestic Battery in Pennsylvania?
As mentioned above, many states categorize "assault" and "battery" as distinctive acts--for example, assault may be an attempt to use force against someone, while battery is the actual act of force. In Pennsylvania, there is no separate crime of "battery." The blanket term "assault" is used to describe both the attempt of violence and the act of violence. You can be charged with assault if the prosecutor can show that you:
- Intentionally or recklessly caused bodily injury to someone else
- Willfully attempted to cause such injury
To make matters more complicated, Pennsylvania doesn't have a specific law that categorizes domestic violence as a distinct crime separate from other crimes. Domestic violence is defined solely by the relationship of the victim to the assailant--specifically, family or household members, sexual/intimate partners (past or present), or people who have a child in common. Thus, if you commit domestic battery against a spouse, partner, or family member, you'll simply be charged with assault, similarly to if you assaulted any person. However, because the act meets the definition of domestic violence, you'll have to deal with the additional repercussions that come with that fact. (See below.)
Types of Domestic Battery (Assault) in Pennsylvania
There are two types of assault in Pennsylvania: simple assault and aggravated assault. Simple assault is the more common charge, and it is a misdemeanor offense. Aggravated assault, on the other hand, is a felony offense.
Misdemeanor Simple Assault
According to Title 18, Section 2701, simple assault is defined as any of the following acts:
- Knowingly, intentionally, and recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury
- Negligently causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon (i.e., not necessarily with intention)
- Threatening someone with bodily injury (to the point of creating fear of harm)
The victim does not have to sustain an injury for you to be charged with simple assault—prosecutors only need to show that you attempted to injure them or that the victim reasonably believed they were in danger.
Simple assault is usually charged as a 2nd-degree misdemeanor, which comes with a maximum penalty of $5000 and up to 2 years in prison if you're convicted. If both parties were assaulting each other, the charge is typically downgraded to 3rd-degree assault, with a maximum sentence of up to 1 year in prison. If, however, you are over age 18 and your alleged victim is 12 years or younger, the charge is upgraded to 1st-degree misdemeanor assault, with a maximum sentence of 5 years.
Felony Aggravated Assault
If your alleged assault results in serious bodily injury to the victim or if you used a deadly weapon during the assault, you may be charged with aggravated assault under Section 2702. Aggravated assault is a serious felony offense, and if convicted, you may face up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.
Other Consequences of Domestic Battery
While any criminal charges against you for domestic battery will reflect the type of assault for which you're accused, if the alleged crime occurs in a domestic violence context, you may face additional repercussions under Pennsylvania law than if you were simply accused of assault--even if you end up not being charged or convicted of a crime. Specifically:
- You're more likely to be arrested. Law enforcement errs on the side of caution when it comes to accusations of domestic violence. Under normal conditions of alleged assault, the police will only make an arrest if they find probable cause to do so (e.g., they see the assault in progress or the victim is notably injured). For domestic violence calls, the cops are required to make an arrest even if they do not see the abuse happening.
- You'll probably be served with a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA). In domestic violence cases, the alleged victim can petition the court for a (PFA) which immediately bans you from having contact with the victim. A PFA can force you to move out of your home, change your daily habits to avoid contact, and even impact custody or visitation rights of your children. If the order is finalized, it may stay in effect for up to 3 years. A PFA can remain in effect even if you are never actually charged with or convicted of a crime.
How a Good Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Can Help You
Because there's more at stake with domestic battery allegations than just the criminal charges, it's important to have a good defense attorney on your side, preferably one with specific experience in domestic violence defense. An experienced lawyer can help you protect your rights, contest an unfair PFA, and fight any criminal charges made against you.
A good domestic violence defense attorney will:
- Thoroughly investigate the allegations against you
- Look for any holes or inconsistencies in the prosecution's case
- Find and interview witnesses who can help your defense
- Help you challenge an unfair PFA before it becomes final
- Build a strong, compelling defense to present in court
If you've been accused of domestic battery in Pennsylvania, don't wait to seek out experienced legal help. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has an excellent track record defending those in Pennsylvania who have been accused of domestic violence. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.