In Pennsylvania, when a person commits a violent act against certain individuals close to them, it may fall under the category of domestic violence. A household member is considered to be anyone within a defendant's history of intimate involvement: their current or former spouse, their child, a person they share a child with, or any family members. Incidents of domestic violence will be handled by both the Criminal and Family Law Divisions of the Lancaster Court of Common Pleas, and a conviction on domestic violence charges can have far-reaching impacts on both of these fronts.
Crimes of Domestic Violence in Lancaster County
The nature of domestic violence crimes relies on two considerations: a violent, or perceived-to-be-violent act, and the status of the victim of the act as a "household member." Common crimes associated with domestic violence are:
- Rape: Rape is the act of non-consensual intercourse that is usually enacted by means of force or threats to the victim
- False imprisonment: False imprisonment is the act of confining a person to a space against their will without legal cause
- Assault: Assault is causing bodily harm to an individual through any means, including the use of any weapons
- Sexual Assault: Sexual assault crimes involve non-consensual sexual actions towards the victim
- Child Abuse: Physically and sexually abusive acts towards children fall under domestic violence
- Pattern of abuse: Repeated acts of violence or threats of violence show a pattern
- Terroristic threats: Threatening to cause bodily harm or in any way implying bodily harm may occur can be seen as an act of domestic violence
- Stalking: Stalking is the act of repeated and consistent attempts for contact
Lancaster County Police Duty In Domestic Violence
When a police officer encounters a situation believe to be domestic violence, Pennsylvania law allows him or her to take action in the form of an arrest without a warrant if there is probable cause. In some cases, it may even be required that the officer arrests a suspect. If the officer observes signs of a struggle, or a physical injury to either party when responding to a call, this may provide enough for the officer to decide to make an arrest. In addition, the officer does not need to observe the crime happening and instead need only infer from the situation and make a judgment before arresting someone. An officer instantly has the authority to arrest anyone that has violated a Protection from Abuse order / PFA order.
After a Domestic Violence Arrest in Lancaster County
Domestic violence charges in Lancaster County will generally first be addressed at a preliminary hearing in one of the 19 Lancaster 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 Lancaster County District Attorney's Office, which is located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
At a domestic violence preliminary hearing in Lancaster 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 Lancaster County is "held for court" at a preliminary hearing, a formal arraignment date will be scheduled at the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas in Lancaster, PA. Thereafter, a domestic violence case will generally either go to trial or be resolved through non-trial disposition, which is generally an agreement between the Lancaster 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 Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas is located at 50 N. Duke Street, Lancaster, PA 17602.
Lancaster County Domestic Violence Defense Attorney | Defense Lawyer for Domestic Violence in Lancaster
Domestic violence is a complex area of the law that can have a greater impact than a person initially expects. Because these crimes span two areas of the law, a domestic violence charge often means more than just the potential for a criminal conviction. Loss of child custody, rights to firearm ownership, and more may follow a domestic violence charge. Because of these concerns, it is important to have representation from an experienced attorney when so much is at stake.