Domestic violence is extremely serious for everyone involved. For those who are victims of domestic violence, it's important they get help from authorities as soon as possible. It's also important for those accused of domestic violence to get help from a defense attorney right away. When emotions run high, people do and say things that are out of character and regrettable. There are even circumstances where a person is falsely accused of domestic violence. Everyone involved in a domestic violence case in Pennsylvania is entitled to, and deserves, the protections allowed them by law. For the accused, this means they have a right to hire a defense attorney.
If you or someone you care about is involved in a domestic violence case, you should contact a PA domestic violence defense attorney right away. An experienced attorney will help you navigate the complex legal system in a way that helps you understand the process. Without a professional legal defense, those accused of domestic violence could be convicted of violent crimes or become subject to court orders that severely impact their day-to-day. The Lento Law Firm can protect your rights, and often reduce the severity of the penalties the accused may face.
Domestic Violence Only Occurs Between Certain Relationships
By definition, Pennsylvania domestic violence can only occur when a certain relationship exists between the accuser and the accused. Accordingly, you can't be charged with domestic violence if your coworker claims you assaulted them unless a domestic relationship also exists between you and that coworker.
Domestic relationships, for purposes of determining whether domestic violence occurred in PA, are between the following parties:
- Parties who are family members
- Parties who are or were married
- Parties who are or were in a sexual relationship with one another
- Parties who live or lived together
- Parties who share biological children
Domestic violence is unique because of the heightened emotional stakes that occur between parties who are often living within close quarters of one another. The state of Pennsylvania takes domestic violence seriously and recognizes a need to intervene. That said, because the emotional tensions are so high in these cases, it can be difficult for the accused to adequately defend themselves. If you've been accused of domestic violence, you must contact a PA domestic violence defense attorney right away. An experienced attorney will act as your legal advocate and facilitate communication with adverse parties during emotional situations.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence in PA?
Domestic violence concerns an act or acts of aggression between two individuals in a domestic relationship as defined by law. The type of conduct that constitutes domestic violence in PA can vary greatly. From physical abuse to psychological abuse, the nature of domestic violence is often ascertained from the victim's statement and any evidence of violence the victim can produce.
Some of the more common occurrences of domestic violence in Pennsylvania include:
- Knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury
- Inciting a reasonable fear of bodily injury
- Sexual assault or attempted sexual assault
- Assault or attempted assault
- Falsely imprisoning a victim
- Creating an environment of routine terror that might cause a victim to be in constant fear of bodily injury
While an act of domestic violence can be obvious to both the victim and the accused, there are times when the criminal act is less apparent to the accused. For example, you may be inadvertently committing an act of false imprisonment if you refuse to let your partner leave the house. This could be a circumstance where you feel it's unsafe for the other person to leave the house, say if they've been drinking or are in a volatile emotional state themselves. Even if your intentions weren't harmful, they could still be construed as wrongful.
PA Domestic Violence Procedure
If you're accused of domestic violence, it likely means the police have already been called, and it's possible you've been arrested. Even if you weren't arrested, in scenarios where there's enough preliminary evidence to establish that a domestic threat exists, your accuser may seek a protection from abuse order (PFA) from the court. In either scenario, those facing domestic violence accusations in Pennsylvania will have to wade through a considerable amount of legal red tape before their lives return to normal.
Generally, when the police are called for a suspected case of domestic violence, they'll separate the accuser and the accused and ask each party questions. They may ask to see evidence of any physical violence. If they determine that enough evidence exists to confirm suspicions of domestic violence, they'll place the individual who caused the abuse under arrest.
If you're arrested on suspicion of domestic violence in PA, it's imperative that you contact your attorney as soon as possible. It's important you tell your attorney everything you remember while it's still fresh in your mind because the police do get it wrong sometimes. The police must follow a procedure that's designed to protect the community at large, and they shouldn't deviate from this procedure.
Criminal Charges and Sentencing Related to Domestic Violence in PA
Domestic violence accusations are very serious and can lead to a criminal record. Charges that result from domestic violence may range in severity, depending on what happened and who was involved. For example, domestic violence that results in injury, or that involves minor children, will be more severely punished than a verbal threat. From misdemeanors to felonies, a person who commits a crime during the commission of domestic violence could face punishment that ranges from probation to years in prison.
What most don't understand is that domestic violence is not a separate criminal charge. When domestic violence occurs in PA, the accused will be charged with whatever violent crime they committed, such as assault or arson. In addition to criminal prosecution, however, those who face charges that result from domestic violence may also become subject to a protection from abuse order that will severely limit the way they move through their community and the contact they have with the ones they love.
Another important thing to note is that there are heightened ramifications for getting caught up in domestic violence accusations if you're already on probation. You could risk losing all access to any firearms you own, in addition to the charges that may come down from the act of violence you're accused of.
Protection From Abuse Orders After Domestic Violence Incident
A protection from abuse order (PFA) often results as a result of domestic violence incidents. PFAs operate like restraining orders and can be imposed against individuals who pose a domestic threat. If a PFA is ordered against you, you won't be able to contact or even communicate with the individual who requested the PFA. If you share a home with this person, you'll also have to move out. Even worse, if you share custody of minor children with the person who requested the PFA against you, you may be unable to see your kids until the PFA is lifted.
There are two types of PFAs that can be ordered against you. The first PFA you'll have to contend with if you're accused of domestic violence is a temporary PFA. These are imposed immediately after the act of domestic violence and are only held in place until a formal hearing can be heard.
At a formal PFA hearing, the accused will have an opportunity to present evidence to disprove the claims that they incited domestic violence against the victim. It's important to hire an attorney to help you defend against PFAs because if the formal hearing results in a permanent PFA order, the PFA can be imposed against you indefinitely.
What to Do if You're Accused of Domestic Violence
If you're accused of domestic violence, your initial reaction may be to argue your case to your accuser or the police on site. You may even want to retaliate. Few interactions can create such extreme emotions as those involving your close family, and most who are accused have a difficult time with the situation. The first thing you should do if you're accused of domestic violence in Pennsylvania is call a PA domestic violence defense attorney. When you have a legal advocate working for you, you don't just have someone who knows the legal processes, but you also have someone on your side who can help you communicate with the other side.
While you're waiting for a case against you to proceed, you should abide by all restrictions imposed upon you. If a PFA is ordered against you, you must follow the rules imposed on you. While a PFA itself isn't a criminal charge, violating a PFA is criminal in nature.
You absolutely must avoid any form of retaliation against your accuser. Your best course of action is to avoid any communication with the other side and instead let your attorney handle the communication. Even when you feel the whole ordeal is a misunderstanding, you shouldn't risk further complicating or worsening the situation by reaching out to the other side.
Consequences of Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania
The consequences of domestic violence accusations in PA are severe. They can lead to a criminal record, which will impact your ability to seek higher education, get a job, or even find housing. Violent crimes aren't generally expungable either, so once convicted, it's difficult to overcome a criminal record for domestic violence. Though, you may be able to expunge your offense if you weren't convicted. It's unfortunate that a person's entire life can be negatively impacted for a bad decision made during a difficult time.
In addition to the consequences associated with the criminal penalties you can expect if you're accused of domestic violence, you're also likely to suffer from the restrictions placed on you by an associated PFA. Common consequences of domestic violence and PFAs can include:
- Having to move out of your house
- Having to surrender firearms
- Prohibition against buying new firearms
- Not being able to see your children
- Losing your job
You may also have difficulties maintaining your career if you belong to a profession that requires you to report any crimes you're convicted of to a PA licensing board. Ultimately, the consequences you might face if you're accused of domestic violence, and charged with related crimes, may be significant and long-lasting. In the head of the moment, it's difficult to fully appreciate just how high the stakes are, and those going through a domestic violence case can reduce the negative impact of their circumstances if they hire a domestic violence defense attorney.
How PA Counties Handle Domestic Violence
Depending on where your domestic violence incident occurs, you could be brought to court in any number of PA counties, even if you don't live in that county. While state law will apply in every county, different courts and judges may have distinct personalities and preferences. An experienced defense attorney will understand how stiff or lenient each judge may be, allowing for an informed strategy in defending your case.
Contact a Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Defense Attorney
Knowing who to call after you get in legal trouble for domestic violence in PA can be difficult. During an already traumatic time, it's hard to figure out who you can trust with your case. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience defending domestic violence cases throughout PA counties. Attorney Lento believes everyone deserves a dedicated defense attorney who can help the accused get their lives back on track.
Attorney Lento prides himself on aggressive advocacy, but he also understands the sensitive nature of domestic violence cases. Often, parties share children or other family members, and it's important to develop a strategy for moving forward. If you or someone you love has been accused of domestic violence, contact the Lento Law firm at 888-535-3686 today, or contact us online.