The law in Pennsylvania takes instances of domestic violence particularly seriously. When an act of domestic violence occurs, the defendant in the case may face increased penalties and several other adverse consequences that extend beyond the realm of criminal law. Many domestic violence cases also carry over into aspects of family law. Domestic violence is defined by the victim of certain violent acts. If the victim is considered a "household member," a "standard" crime can become a "domestic violence" crime. Household members can include relatives, other family members, current or former spouses or partners, persons sharing a child, and children. In Lehigh County, issues of domestic violence are often resolved in both criminal court, and the court of family law. The appropriate division of the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas, located in Allentown, PA, is where domestic violence is often ultimately addressed.
Domestic Violence Crimes in Lehigh County
There are a number of acts that can fall under the umbrella of domestic violence. Some crimes that may constitute an act of domestic violence include:
- False imprisonment: Confining a person to a space without legal authority or proper reasoning to do so can be false imprisonment
- Child abuse: Any acts that are physically or sexually violent when directed towards a child can be domestic violence
- Patterns of abuse: If a person exhibits repeated and consistent abusive behavior, this can be called a pattern of abuse in court, which may affect family law matters
- Sexual Assault: Sexual contact without a person's consent can be considered sexual assault
- Assault: Deliberate acts that result in any degree bodily harm with or without any weapon can be considered assault
- Rape: Non-consensual intercourse through the use of force or threats is considered rape
- Terroristic threats: Any acts or words that cause a person to fear imminent bodily harm can be considered a terroristic threat
Lehigh County Police Action in Domestic Violence Cases
Pennsylvania allows certain circumstances under which a police officer has greater authority to make an arrest than when usually permitted if domestic violence is involved. Police officers arriving on scene may make a judgment call based on their first impression of a scene, without getting the full story. The law allows an officer to make an arrest if they believe an act of domestic violence has occurred. The officer must base their judgment off of any injuries to either party or surrounding information, such as broken objects or a disheveled scene. In addition, a violation of a Protection from Abuse order / PFA order will generally result in an immediate arrest and criminal contempt charges.
After a Domestic Violence Arrest in Lehigh County
Domestic violence charges in Lehigh County will generally first be addressed at a preliminary hearing in one of the 14 Lehigh 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 Lehigh County District Attorney's Office, which is located in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
At a domestic violence preliminary hearing in Lehigh 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 Lehigh County is "held for court" at a preliminary hearing, a formal arraignment date will be scheduled at the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas in Allentown, 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 Lehigh 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 Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas is located at 455 Hamilton Street, Allentown, PA 18101.
Lehigh County Domestic Violence Defense Attorney | Defense Lawyer for Domestic Violence in Allentown
Domestic violence charges can greatly complicate a person's life. Individuals facing domestic violence charges not only have the complications of the criminal justice system but can also have complications arising in the field of family law as well. Domestic violence charges can affect matters such as child custody or support agreements, and may even prevent a defendant from owning a firearm. Due to the complex nature of these charges, their defense is best left to an experienced defense attorney.
If you or a loved one is facing domestic violence charges in Allentown or Lehigh County, PA, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.