You have been accused by your significant other of committing domestic violence--and those accusations resulted in criminal charges, and those charges resulted in a conviction. The big question on your mind now is probably, what happens next?
The answer to that question is: it depends. The sentencing for a conviction of a domestic violence crime in Pennsylvania will match the typical penalty for that crime, but there may be enhancements and mitigating factors that affect your sentence. In addition, you will have the option to appeal your conviction. Having an experienced Pennsylvania domestic violence defense attorney in your corner can make a significant difference in your outcome, especially during the sentencing phase of your case.
The State of Pennsylvania takes domestic violence cases seriously. If you're convicted of a crime as a result of domestic violence allegations, you don't want to leave your future to chance. Attorney Joseph D. Lento understands how the Pennsylvania criminal process works, and he can help you achieve the best possible outcome of your case at every step in that process. To schedule a consultation, call 888-535-3686.
Sentences for Domestic Violence Crimes in Pennsylvania
The penalties for domestic violence crimes in Pennsylvania range from minor fines to long prison sentences. The specific penalty that you will face depends on the severity of the crime that you were convicted of, the severity of injuries to the victim, and whether any children were present, as well as any prior convictions that you have had.
In the State of Pennsylvania, there is no specific crime designated as domestic violence; rather, domestic violence is defined by your relationship to the alleged victim (e.g., spouse, ex-spouse, co-habitant, child, live-in relative, etc.). So, if you are accused of assaulting your spouse, for example, your criminal charge will be simple assault (a second-degree misdemeanor). If you are convicted, you will be sentenced according to Pennsylvania's standard sentencing guidelines for a second-degree misdemeanor offense.
Maximum Penalties for Domestic Violence Crimes
Pennsylvania classifies criminal offenses in varying degrees of misdemeanors and felonies, including crimes committed in the context of domestic violence. The maximum penalties for standard offenses are as follows.
Third Degree Misdemeanors
Harassment and cyber harassment are examples of domestic abuse third-degree misdemeanors.
- Maximum Fine – $2,500
- Maximum Sentence – 1 year in jail
Second Degree Misdemeanors
Examples include simple assault, revenge porn, and false imprisonment.
- Maximum Fine – $5,000
- Maximum Sentence – 2 years in prison
First Degree Misdemeanors
Domestic violence examples include stalking, terroristic threats, unlawful restraint.
- Maximum Fine – $10,000
- Maximum Sentence – 5 years in prison
Third Degree Felonies
Examples include criminal trespass, false imprisonment, interference with custody of children.
- Maximum Fine – $15,000
- Maximum Sentence – 7 years in prison
Second Degree Felonies
For example, sexual assault, aggravated assault.
- Maximum Fine – $25,000
- Maximum Sentence – 10 years in prison
First Degree Felonies
Includes severe crimes such as kidnapping, rape, murder.
- Maximum Fine – $25,000
- Maximum Sentence – 20 years in prison
Mitigating Factors in Sentencing
You won't necessarily receive the maximum sentence for your conviction. The judge will take certain mitigating factors into account when determining your sentence, including whether you showed remorse, if you have no prior criminal history, if you have sought treatment or counseling, etc. In many cases, minor offenses may result in reduced sentencing that avoids jail time, such as probation, community service, and/or court-mandated counseling. A skilled defense attorney can be invaluable during the sentencing phase to negotiate for leniency based on mitigating factors.
Aggravating Factors in Sentencing
Just as certain factors may reduce your sentence, other aggravating factors may increase your chances of enhanced charges and/or the maximum possible sentence for your crime. As a rule of thumb, if you have a prior domestic violence conviction, your current criminal charges will be enhanced by one degree (for example, a first-degree misdemeanor is upgraded to a third-degree felony. Additionally, if children were present during the violence, if you used a deadly weapon, or if the victim suffered severe injuries, you're more likely to receive the maximum sentence.
The Sentencing Process
In Pennsylvania, if you're convicted of a domestic violence offense, your sentencing will take place at a separate sentencing hearing. Before the hearing, you may have an interview with the probation officer responsible for compiling a pre-sentence report with background information about you and your case for the judge to consider. Your attorney will also use this time to negotiate for reduced sentencing. At the hearing, which typically takes only a few minutes, the judge will hand down a sentence deemed appropriate for the crime taking into account both aggravating mitigating factors as well as any mandatory minimums for your conviction.
Appealing a Sentence
Even if you receive a particularly harsh sentence, it's not necessarily the end of the story. You still have at least two options for appealing to receive a reduced or even overturned sentence:
- File a Motion for Reconsideration. Within ten days of your sentence, your attorney may file a motion requesting the judge to reconsider your sentence. Your attorney should present specific and compelling reasons why the sentence should be revisited.
- Appeal the Conviction. Your attorney may file an appeal with the Pennsylvania Superior Court within 30 days. Your appeal is more likely to be considered if your attorney can provide compelling evidence of errors or miscarriage of justice during your trial, such as unlawful arguments made by prosecutors, improper instructions to the jury, exclusion of material evidence, or an unjust sentence.
Even if this was your first domestic violence offense or if you believe your offense was minor, it's unwise to assume you'll get off with a light sentence. Pennsylvania takes domestic violence crimes very seriously, and the judge still has the right to impose the maximum sentence for your crime. A skilled domestic violence defense attorney can be a lifeline during this critical time and can make a huge difference in the sentence you ultimately receive. Attorney Joseph Lento will work on your behalf to minimize the impact of a domestic violence conviction. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.