Approximately 33% of women and 25% of men have experienced violence involving an intimate partner. There are nearly 21,000 calls received across the country each day regarding acts of domestic violence. Roughly 43% of dating college women have experienced a form of abuse either verbally, physically, or sexually. Over 70 agencies and organizations offer services related to domestic violence in Pennsylvania currently. In 2017 in Montgomery County, there was 1,658 Protection from Abuse (PFA) orders filed.
Understanding Domestic Violence
Acts of domestic violence involve an individual intentionally or recklessly inflicting bodily injury or making threats or otherwise creating fear of bodily harm against a member of their family or household. These may be acts including assault, rape, child abuse, stalking, and more. In Pennsylvania, such criminal charges may constitute either a misdemeanor or a felony level offense.
Designation of Domestic Violence Charges
Pennsylvania statute does not specifically categorize these offenses as being domestic violence. They are charged according to the nature of the offense such as assault, recklessly endangering another person, strangulation, etc. Charges that are misdemeanors, such as simple assault, are usually of the second-degree. These offenses are punishable by a maximum of two years of imprisonment and a maximum of a $5,000 fine.
Responsibilities of Responding Law Enforcement
Disclosures to Victims
Any officer(s) who responds to an incident of domestic violence is required to follow a certain protocol that involves disclosure and reporting requirements. The alleged victim(s) must be told by the officer and provided information in writing that lists the local community resources available that include options for medical treatment and shelter. The officer will also inform them of their right to file a PFA petition, which may be completed on the first floor of the Montgomery County Courthouse.
Any officer who responds to a home where there was a complaint of domestic abuse or violence must file a report using the Federal National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). This incident report will summarize the key details. If an arrest was not made, the report should contain details that justify the grounds for this decision.
The court will generally impose the PFA order on the same business day. The PFA will typically order that the alleged abuser vacate the home and may not contact any alleged victim(s). If there are minor children, the court will act in the best interest of their safety when determining custody arrangements and any need for interim financial support from the parents. All PFA orders are promptly received by the Pennsylvania State Police for centralized access among all authorities statewide.
The parties involved will be notified of a PFA hearing, which must occur within 10 days. This hearing is conducted to confirm the validity of the alleged violence or abuse. The alleged abuser (defendant) will be formally reminded of their right to be represented by legal counsel. This individual may be ordered to relinquish any weapons that they own or possess. The court is able to implement temporary orders necessary to ensure the safety of the alleged victim(s) and any minor children.
Importance of Retaining Experienced Legal Counsel
Those who are facing allegations associated with domestic or intimate partner violence or abuse should promptly consult with an attorney. The courts are able to impose orders that may have significant consequences for the alleged abuser. Having seasoned legal counsel will help to ensure your rights are not violated and to begin developing a comprehensive defense strategy.
An Attorney for Defending Against Charges of Domestic Violence in Montgomery County
The Lento Law Firm has a wealth of experience in defending clients facing charges that stem from allegations of violence in Montgomery County. For a confidential case evaluation, contact the office today at (888) 535-3686.