The consequences can be serious if you're facing accusations of domestic violence in Pennsylvania. You can face charges ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony and years in jail. You can also face a Protection from Abuse order preventing you from seeing or contacting your family, living in your home, or seeing your children. The damage to your reputation can also be severe if you're convicted of a domestic violence charge.
While you're struggling with accusations of domestic violence, you may also see your accuser helped along by a “domestic violence advocate.” Domestic violence advocates are common in Pennsylvania, funded by nonprofit organizations that combat domestic violence in the state. Often these programs receive federal funds as well, allowing them to train domestic violence advocates across the state and staff domestic violence centers where victims can go for help.
What Qualifies as Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania?
There is no specific “domestic violence” criminal charge in Pennsylvania. Rather, whether a crime qualifies as domestic violence often depends on the relationship between the parties. You may be in a qualifying domestic relationship if you and the victim are married, in a dating or other intimate relationship, family or household members, or have a child together. Crimes that may fall under the “domestic violence” umbrella include:
- Violating a restraining or protective order,
- Child abuse,
- Sexual assault,
- Assault and aggravated assault,
- Endangering the welfare of a child,
- Criminal trespass, and
Even if you aren't faced with criminal domestic violence charges, you may be facing a petition for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order based on accusations of domestic violence.
What Role Does a Domestic Violence Advocate Play?
In Pennsylvania, nonprofit organizations like the YWCA, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and others often provide “domestic violence advocates” in towns across the state. These advocates are sometimes even lawyers who can represent victims in court, help them obtain Protection from Abuse (PFA) orders, and help victims find counseling, shelter, and economic aid.
Legal advocates can often help victims with:
- Completing PFA petitions,
- Go to court with victims for PFA hearings and civil and criminal hearings, and
- Attend prosecutor and police follow-up interviews with the victim.
Domestic violence advocates as basically there to help the victim through the process. They work solely for the victim, not the police or the prosecutor. They can't typically provide legal advice, but they do have specialized training in domestic violence laws and advocacy.
How Can an Experienced Defense Attorney Help Me?
If you're facing domestic violence allegations and criminal charges or a Protection from Abuse order, you need legal help. Your accuser probably has the backing of a domestic violence advocate, the police department, and sometimes the state of Pennsylvania. You shouldn't try to handle serious criminal charges alone. The system is stacked against you, but remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. You need a skilled criminal defense attorney on your side, someone who is well-versed in defending domestic violence allegations and handling Protection from Abuse matters.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the experienced Domestic Violence Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm are well-versed in handling Pennsylvania criminal defense, domestic violence charges, and PFA orders. Find out how they can help you. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686, or contact them online to schedule your consultation.