Domestic abuse and intimate partner violence continue to be addressed by Pennsylvania lawmakers. Governor Tom Wolf recently signed legislation such as Act 79, which he says is “commonsense legislation to protect victims and reduce violence.” In 2017, approximately 78 females and 39 males were fatally injured in acts deemed as being domestic violence. In addition, another 47 of alleged abusers died in incidents of domestic violence.
Intimate partner violence is estimated to account for 15% of all violent crime. Nearly 75% of murder-suicides that occur now involve an intimate partner. Households that maintain a firearm are at a significantly higher risk for incidents of domestic violence to result in a fatality. One indicator of potential acts of domestic violence in Pennsylvania is the number of Protection from Abuse Orders (PFA) filed. In 2017 in Bucks County, there were roughly 651 new PFA orders.
Chapters of the Pennsylvania statutes contain provisions that relate to “abuse of family.” This is defined as an act that involves members of a household, family, intimate partner, or those with shared parenthood. Acts of such abuse may involve:
- Willingly or recklessly “causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or incest with or without a deadly weapon.”
- Creating fear among another person of severe bodily harm, which may include repeatedly “following” the person
- Falsely imprisoning someone
- Acts of abuse to minor children of a physical or sexual nature
Classification of Crimes of Domestic Violence
There is no Pennsylvania statute that formally addresses the offense of “domestic violence” or “intimate partner violence.” These offenses are categorized and the penalties are imposed under the charges of the statutory violent crimes such as aggravated assault, battery, etc. What charges may apply to acts of domestic violence?
Simple assault and recklessly endangering another person are the two most common potential misdemeanor offenses that may apply. Simple assault (§ 2701) may involve willingly or knowingly causing bodily harm. The injury may be caused by a lethal weapon. It also may involve attempting to act as a “physical menace” to create fear of severe injury. Reckless endangerment (§ 2705) involves actions that expose others to possible injury or death. These are generally second-degree offenses with maximum penalties of incarceration for two years and up to a $5,000 fine. Other charges that are commonly associated with domestic violence include harassment, strangulation, aggravated assault, and more.
Protection from Abuse Orders (PFA)
A PFA protects a victim from abuse that is typically caused by another family or household member. The alleged abuser must have no contact with the victim when a PFA is active. It is one of several protection orders associated with the Protection from Abuse Act that originated in 1976.
PFA Court Hearing
PA § 6107 states that the court must hold a hearing within 10 days after receiving a petition. It is strongly recommended that any alleged abuser (defendant) retain an attorney that is familiar with this realm of practice who may accompany them. The defendant may be required to surrender any firearms they possess.
Bucks County Attorney for Defending Charges Related to Domestic Violence
Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients facing allegations such as domestic violence and intimate partner violence. He will work to ensure your rights are protected amid protection order hearings and any criminal proceedings that follow. Contact the office today for confidential legal consultation at (888) 535-3686.