Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania is defined by a number of acts. Typically, an act of domestic violence is defined as any acts that are violent in nature towards any "household members." Pennsylvania law defines these individuals as current or former spouses, relatives, current or former intimate partners, or individuals who share a child. In Berks County, incidents of domestic violence are resolved with a two front approach: there is the criminal aspect of these matters, as well as the family law aspect. Both are resolved within the appropriate division of the Berks County Court of Common Pleas.
Crimes of Domestic Violence in Berks County
Domestic violence crimes are considered crimes that are violent or abusive in nature done towards victims that qualify as household members. Some common domestic violence crimes include:
- Assault: Assault is the act of causing physical bodily harm to a person
- Sexual Assault: Sexual assault is an act of non-consensual sexual acts towards a person
- Rape: Rape is non-consensual sexual intercourse against an individual through the use of threat or force
- False imprisonment: False imprisonment is the act of detaining a person against their will without cause
- Causing a person to fear imminent serious bodily injury: This act can be done through threats, or possibly even spur of the moment actions that are misread
- Abuse towards a child: Any acts that are abusive physically, or sexually towards a child may be considered domestic violence
- Exhibiting a pattern of abuse: A pattern of abuse is a repeated and continued display of domestic violence acts towards a household member
Berks County Police Duty in Domestic Violence Cases
In Pennsylvania, the law may allow and in some cases require a police officer to make an arrest when there is sufficient evidence to establish probable cause for a domestic violence situation. An officer may immediately make an arrest if they decide that probable cause exists for acts of domestic violence such as:
- Reckless endangerment
- Terroristic threats
- Violation of a Protection from Abuse order / PFA order
The officer does not have to see the act take place, but the probable cause may be established by signs of the act having taken place, such as bodily injury or signs of struggle. A domestic violence arrest can also result in the confiscation of any firearms or other weapons and property as well.
After a Domestic Violence Arrest in Berks County
Domestic violence charges in Berks County will generally first be addressed at a preliminary hearing in one of the 16 Berks County Magisterial District Courts. A magisterial district justice will preside over the matter, and the case against the person charged with domestic violence offenses will be prosecuted by a representative of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; generally an assistant district attorney from the Berks County District Attorney's Office, which is located in Reading, Pennsylvania.
At a domestic violence preliminary hearing in Berks County, charges can be dismissed, withdrawn, or "held for court," meaning that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has met their burden against the defendant and that the case will move forward. If a domestic violence offense in Berks County is "held for court" at a preliminary hearing, a formal arraignment date will be scheduled at the Berks County Court of Common Pleas in Reading, PA. Thereafter, a domestic violence case will generally either go to trial or be resolved through non-trial disposition, which is generally through an agreement between the Berks County District Attorney's Office, the defendant, the defendant's attorney, and the judge. At the applicable time, domestic violence charges may also be withdrawn or dismissed in some instances.
The Berks County Court of Common Pleas is located at 633 Court Street, Reading, PA 19601.
Berks County Domestic Violence Defense Attorney | Defense Lawyer for Domestic Violence in Reading
Not only can criminal acts of domestic violence carry more severe penalties, a defendant may also find that many other aspects of their life are impacted. Domestic violence convictions can affect a person's status in a family law case, their right to own a firearm, and more. An experienced criminal defense attorney can significantly impact a person's outcome in a domestic violence case.