Pennsylvania College Student Defense: Relationship and Domestic Violence

You chose wisely when you chose to attend one of Pennsylvania's many fine colleges and universities like Penn State, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple, Drexel, LaSalle, or Villanova. You've doubtless also invested heavily in your Pennsylvania college or university education, not only in time and tuition but discipline and effort. And you reasonably expect significant rewards for your wise investment. Yet allegations of relationship or domestic violence can, if not properly handled, destroy your investment. Pennsylvania colleges and universities will discipline students who face criminal charges or other allegations of relationship or domestic violence, right up to kicking those students out of school. Don't assume that an allegation against you of relationship or domestic violence is solely a personal, civil, or criminal matter. Relationship or domestic violence is a school matter, too. Retain premier Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team if you face relationship or domestic violence charges threatening your future. Get the skilled and experienced help you need for your best school discipline defense and criminal defense.

Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Criminal Charges

Pennsylvania does not have a separate criminal statute criminalizing domestic violence. Pennsylvania instead criminalizes several forms of relationship or domestic violence through other criminal laws addressing violence generally. Violating one or more of those criminal laws can lead to charges against you in the local criminal courts. Those criminal court charges may also cause your Pennsylvania college or university to issue school disciplinary charges in a school proceeding. Even if you do not face criminal charges in criminal court, your school may use these criminal laws to discipline you. Pennsylvania colleges and universities routinely include a student's violation of the state's criminal laws as another form of school misconduct. Retain Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to help you defend and defeat the following Pennsylvania relationship and domestic violence crimes and related school disciplinary charges.


Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 2709 defines criminal harassment as when the defendant intends to harass another person by making physical contact, following them, communicating with them repeatedly, or repeatedly engaging in conduct serving no purpose. Harassment is a summary offense punishable by up to ninety days in jail and a $300 fine.


Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 2709.1 defines stalking as when the defendant repeatedly follows or communicates with another person causing that person severe emotional distress or a reasonable fear of bodily injury. Depending on the circumstances, stalking is either a first-degree misdemeanor or a third-degree felony punishable by up to seven years in jail and up to a $15,000 fine.

False Imprisonment

Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 2903 defines false imprisonment as knowingly and unlawfully restraining a person against his or her will. False imprisonment is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.

Sexual Assault

Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 3122.1 defines sexual assault as engaging in sexual intercourse either with a person against his or her consent or with a person unable to give his or her consent. Sexual assault is a second-degree felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Proceedings

While Pennsylvania does not separately criminalize domestic violence, other than through the above general laws against violence, Pennsylvania does have a Protection from Abuse Act authorizing the local courts to issue protection from abuse (PFA) orders. A PFA order, readily obtained when a private complainant files a court complaint, restrains the defendant from relationship and domestic violence. You may, in other words, face a PFA proceeding and suffer restraint under a PFA order without a prosecutor filing any criminal charges. The person accusing you of relationship or domestic violence may obtain the order on the person's own. But much like a criminal charge, a PFA proceeding could trigger disciplinary charges at your Pennsylvania college or university. Retain Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento for the defense of both your PFA proceeding and related school disciplinary charges.

Qualifying Intimate and Domestic Relationships

Pennsylvania's Protection from Abuse Act authorizes the courts to issue a PFA order when abuse occurs between “family or household members, sexual or intimate partners, or persons who share biological parenthood,” including “current or former sexual or intimate partners.” Thus, your past or present sexual or intimate relationship with another student on campus or another person is enough to qualify for a PFA order under Pennsylvania's Act. If another student seeks and obtains a court's PFA order against you, you may find yourself restrained from contact with that student on campus. You may also find yourself facing school disciplinary charges.

Qualifying Relationship or Domestic Abuse Acts

Pennsylvania's Protection from Abuse Act authorizes the courts to issue a PFA order when abuse has occurred in one of the above relationships. The Act defines abuse broadly to include: causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, indecent assault, or incest; causing another person to reasonably fear imminent serious bodily injury; false imprisonment; physically or sexually abusing a minor child, or repeatedly committing acts directed at another person placing that person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. Under these definitions, abuse qualifying for a PFA order doesn't require actual violence. Threats or other actions creating reasonable fears of violence are enough. You may find yourself facing PFA order restraint and school disciplinary charges because of endangering or threatening behavior between you and another student or other intimate partner.

School Disciplinary Charges for Relationship Violence

Your Pennsylvania college or university may have nothing to do with the criminal charges or PFA proceedings you may face relating to allegations of relationship or domestic violence. The local courts will conduct those proceedings. But your Pennsylvania college or university may nonetheless determine to pursue school disciplinary proceedings involving the same allegations. A school proceeding would be especially likely if the person pursuing the criminal charges or PFA order is a student who expects your restraint on or about campus. In that case, school disciplinary officials will likely pursue disciplinary charges to ensure the campus remains safe for the complaining student's education. Pennsylvania colleges and universities maintain student codes of conduct authorizing the school to issue disciplinary charges for relationship or domestic violence. Villanova University's Sexual Misconduct Policy is an example, expressly authorizing disciplinary charges for “dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, and stalking.” Penn State University's Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Inappropriate Conduct Policy is another example prohibiting the same misconduct. Indeed, under Title IX, schools receiving federal funding must prohibit dating and domestic violence among students or risk losing that funding. Other Pennsylvania colleges and universities thus maintain similar policies. Pennsylvania student discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team provide you with skilled and experienced representation for defending and defeating those school disciplinary charges.

Investigating Relationship Violence on Pennsylvania Campuses

Your Pennsylvania college or university has the resources and personnel to investigate relationship and domestic violence on campus or affecting student schooling. Under Pennsylvania law, colleges and universities have a general form of police power over their campuses, just as they have public responsibility for orderly and safe school operations. And Pennsylvania colleges and universities take those responsibilities seriously. Villanova University, the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State University, and Temple University, for example, all maintain campus police departments. Thus, if a student complains to school officials of an incident or series of incidents of relationship or domestic violence, campus police may take swift action to investigate the allegations while protecting the complaining student. Likewise, if campus police learn from other police departments that a student on campus is potentially a perpetrator or victim of relationship or domestic violence, campus police will cooperate with those other law enforcement officials. And even if campus police do not get involved, your school's Title IX coordinator or other designated official will likely take swift action required by federal law to initiate and pursue school disciplinary proceedings.

Dating or Domestic Violence Sanctions and Consequences

Dating or domestic violence is a serious matter carrying serious criminal and school sanctions. You've seen above that a criminal court conviction for relationship or domestic violence can carry lengthy prison sentences and stiff fines. Depending on the conduct, the convicted defendant may also face sex offender registration. Your Pennsylvania college or university will surely reserve the right to impose sanctions for relationship or domestic violence from loss of housing or other privileges and required training or education, right up to school suspension and expulsion. LaSalle University's Title IX Policy is an example of authorizing those sanctions. Criminal convictions and school discipline can also lead to severe collateral consequences like the inability to transfer or gain admission to graduate school and lost jobs, careers, licenses, and certifications. Appreciate the severe impact of those consequences. Respect and value your investment in your education by retaining student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento for your best possible outcome.

Defending Dating or Domestic Violence Criminal Charges

Just because prosecutors charge you with relationship or domestic violence crimes, or the person with whom you had an intimate relationship files for a protection from abuse order, doesn't mean that you will face conviction, incarceration, restraint, or other serious consequences. Pennsylvania law recognizes several defenses to relationship or domestic violence charges, just as the law permits you to raise defenses in a PFA proceeding. When you retain Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento for your criminal defense of relationship or domestic violence charges or a PFA proceeding, he and the Lento Law Firm's criminal defense team can ensure your prompt release without restrictive bond terms at arraignment. They can expose defects in the prosecutor's case during your preliminary examination hearing. They can use your discovery rights to get the prosecution's evidence that could exonerate you from the charges. They can also move to suppress evidence the police obtained in violation of your constitutional rights. Attorney Lento may also recommend Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) to avoid prosecution and conviction or a plea bargain for voluntary dismissal or charge reductions. Attorney Lento is also a skilled trial advocate for the cross-examination of incriminating witnesses. And the Lento Law Firm's criminal defense team can also move for post-trial relief and appeal the conviction. Get the skilled help you need to defend and defeat criminal charges.

Defending School Dating Violence Disciplinary Charges

Your Pennsylvania college or university will have its own school disciplinary procedures for determining whether to discipline you for dating or domestic violence. Constitutional due process generally requires public colleges and universities to give fair notice of the charges and a reasonable opportunity to defend them. Contractual obligations may require private schools to also do so. Villanova University's Sexual Misconduct Policy, LaSalle University's Title IX Policy, Drexel University's Student Code of Conduct, and Temple University's Student Policies and Procedures are all examples of disclosing the school's protective procedures. Strategically invoking these school procedures, attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student discipline defense team can answer your school's disciplinary complaint, raise defenses to the charges, and discover your school's evidence. They can attend or prepare you to attend disciplinary meetings and conferences seeking early dismissal of the charges. They can help you correct and supplement the school's investigation report, attend formal hearings as the school's rules permit, and appeal adverse decisions. Attorney Lento has also helped many students negotiate alternative special relief through school general counsel, outside retained counsel, and other oversight channels, even if you have already exhausted all procedures.

Pennsylvania Student Discipline and Criminal Defense

Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento combines skilled criminal court defense with equally skilled and experienced school disciplinary defense for Pennsylvania college student crimes. You don't need to hire two attorneys, one for your criminal court domestic violence matter and another for your school disciplinary defense. You don't need to worry about your two attorneys failing to coordinate your criminal charge and school disciplinary defense. Attorney Lento has substantial experience in both areas for your effective defense. Respect the investment you have in your Pennsylvania college or university education. Contact attorney Lento now at 888.535.3686 or go online.

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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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