Though smart and accomplished within their own field, professionals facing domestic-violence charges generally lack a sound, detailed, and reliable knowledge of the law and legal procedures. Professionals facing arrest in Montgomery County on domestic-violence charges need expert representation from a premier criminal defense lawyer with the skill, training, education, and reputation of Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm. Pennsylvania criminal-defense attorney Joseph Lento wants professionals facing domestic-violence charges in Montgomery County to know their rights, interests, and opportunity to successfully defend those charges.
What Is a Pennsylvania Domestic-Violence Charge?
Pennsylvania does not have a single domestic-violence charge but instead a range of misdemeanor and felony crimes of violence that district attorneys may charge in domestic violence situations. Pennsylvania does have a Protection from Abuse Act, 23 Pa.C.S. 6101, authorizing orders to protect a victim from a family or household member's abuse and helping to define the general crimes that generally qualify as crimes of domestic violence.
The Protection from Abuse Act's second section, 23 Pa.C.S. 6102, defines domestic violence as involving certain violent “acts between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood….” The criminal acts qualifying as domestic abuse under 23 Pa.C.S. 6102 include:
- attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or incest with or without a deadly weapon;
- placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
- the infliction of false imprisonment;
- physically or sexually abusing minor children;
- knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances that place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.
The Montgomery County district attorney charging a professional with any of the above crimes, such as false imprisonment under 18 Pa.C.S. 2903 or statutory rape/sexual assault under 18 Pa.C.S. 3122.1, occurring in a family or household setting, would effectively be charging a domestic-violence crime. Other domestic-violence crimes include harassment under 18 Pa.C.S. 2709, stalking under 18 Pa.C.S. 2709.1, simple assault under 18 Pa.C.S. 2701, aggravated assault under 18 Pa.C.S. 2702, recklessly endangering under 18 Pa.C.S. 2705, and strangulation under 18 Pa.C.S. 2718.
The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, like other prosecutor's offices around the region and country, charges domestic-violence crimes as frequently as many other crimes. Montgomery County publicizes a Domestic Violence Legal Network among law enforcement, government, and community agencies with the goals of facilitating communication between victims and local services, removing obstacles to victim help and relief, informing the community about available victim services, and advocating legislative and policy reforms on victims' behalf.
What Potential Effects Do Domestic-Violence Charges Have?
The above variety of domestic-violence charges expose a professional to a progressive set of potential penalties. Pennsylvania law defines the above domestic-violence crimes as first, second, or third-degree misdemeanors, or first, second, or third-degree felonies. The lowest charge, a third-degree misdemeanor, carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. The highest charge, a first-degree felony, carries a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Clearly, Pennsylvania domestic-violence charges can, if not handled properly for the best possible outcome, severely adversely affect a professional's practice, on the penalties alone.
The criminal penalties aside, professionals can face significantly greater career losses from a domestic-violence charge or conviction than non-professionals whose work does not require the highest level of integrity. A domestic-violence charge or conviction may require reporting to a professional licensing body that will consider license suspension or revocation, often on a lower burden of proof than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt burden that prosecutions carry.
If not handled properly, collateral consequences of a domestic violence charge or conviction can be severe even for professionals whose practice does not require licensure. Pennsylvania statutes could, for instance, impose loss of physician-assistant, respiratory-therapist, and athletic-trainer license under 63 P.S. 271.15 and loss of recreational-vehicle and firearm license and rights under 75 Pa.C.S. 7711.2. Pending charges and bail terms could limit travel.
Another significant risk is the potential loss of reputation from poorly handled domestic-violence charges could cause a professional to lose clients, patients, and professional networks. And careers are not a professional's only concern. Inappropriate response to domestic-violence charges can affect a professional's marriage and family relationships, and social, religious, and recreational activities.
Professionals place a lot on the line when facing domestic-violence charges. Professionals should not risk handling any criminal charge on their own, especially charges so potentially damaging as domestic-violence charges. To reduce your risk of conviction and collateral consequences, contact premier Pennsylvania criminal-defense lawyer Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm now by calling (888) 535-3686 or going online.
Defending Domestic-Violence Charges Against a Professional
Domestic-violence charges commonly implicate several specific defenses. The first such defense is self-defense. Some may assume that the weaker party is always the victim and the stronger party always the aggressor. That presumption is very often false. Smaller, weaker persons can, with or without a weapon, inflict serious and even fatal injury against the stronger party. Professionals are just as likely as others to refrain from any use of force other than that reasonable force necessary to defend themselves, which the law permits.
Lack of intent is a second common defense to domestic-violence charges. These crimes, such as simple assault, typically require either intent or at least recklessness with respect to causing physical harm. Accidents in the home happen. Sometimes, one party accidentally causes some traumatic contact, without any intent to harm or recklessness, and yet injury nonetheless results. In those instances, the prosecution cannot establish the requisite intent. Consent is a related common defense, in which the injured party was voluntarily participating in the activity that accidentally or even foreseeably brought about the harm.
Some domestic-violence crimes require serious bodily injury, which Pennsylvania law, depending on the specific crime, further defines in various ways such as impairment of physical condition, substantial pain, permanent disfigurement, or substantial risk of death. A third common defense is the absence of the requisite injury. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has represented many professionals in domestic-violence cases, raising and prevailing on these and other defenses.
Knowing Criminal Procedures Helps the Professional Defend
One advantage that professionals have is that their procedural training and analytic education can help them assist criminal-defense attorney Joseph Lento in defense of domestic violence charges. To do so, however, the professional must know what is happening and what is going to happen when working closely with attorney Lento. Consider this brief outline of how attorney Lento represents professional client defendants through Montgomery County's criminal-court procedures:
- at the investigation stage, when police detectives collect crime evidence and interview witnesses, attorney Lento ensures that the professional defendant relies on the privilege against self-incrimination, while seeing that investigators receive exculpatory information;
- at the complaint stage, when the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office files the criminal complaint in the county's Court of Common Pleas, attorney Lento ensures that the defendant avoids self-incrimination, understands the process, and prepares for arrest;
- at the arrest stage, when police take the professional into custody, search the defendant, and book and photograph the defendant, attorney Lento may ensure that the professional submits promptly at a time and place to minimize embarrassment and jail-holding time;
- at the appearance stage, when the Magisterial District Court sets bail, attorney Lento advocates to ensure that the professional goes free on reasonable bail and terms to live as normally as possible while assisting in attorney Lento's defense to the charges;
- at the formal arraignment, when the professional appears before the Magisterial District Court judge to hear the charges and associated rights, attorney Lento can be present to explain the proceeding;
- at the preliminary hearing, when the Magisterial District Court hears the prosecution's probable-cause evidence and the professional enters a plea for bind over to the Court of Common Pleas, attorney Lento evaluates the prosecution's evidence to argue for dismissal where the prosecution has failed to produce evidence on each element of the charged crime;
- at pretrial diversion, when the Court of Common Pleas considers the possibility of allowing the defendant to follow out-of-court procedures that can result in a dismissal of the charges, attorney Lento uses his knowledge of the program and relationships with the diversion professionals to help the professional qualify for, complete, and document completion of diversion;
- at pretrial motions, when police obtained evidence illegally, attorney Lento files and argues a motion to suppress the evidence, on grant of which the prosecution may lack evidence to continue the prosecution;
- at the pretrial conference, attorney Lento addresses evidentiary and other issues while negotiating for the charge's dismissal or plea agreement on reduced charges;
- at trial, attorney Lento gives an opening statement, cross-examines prosecution witnesses and calls defense witnesses, makes and argues motions to dismiss and other trial motions, and makes the closing argument;
- at any sentencing, attorney Lento ensures accurate and complete information in the presentence report and advocates for leniency applying Pennsylvania's complex sentencing guidelines;
- for any appeal, attorney Lento analyzes the trial record for errors and irregularities unfairly influencing the outcome to gain post-conviction relief.
Enforcing Constitutional Rights on Domestic-Violence Charges
Your constitutional right to due process can be just as important in a domestic-violence proceeding as in other criminal proceedings. The U.S. Constitution guarantees a domestic-violence defendant the following due-process rights, most of which the Pennsylvania Constitution also guarantees, that attorney Lento enforces:
- a right against unlawful arrest, the violation of which may lead to suppression of a confession or other evidence like fingerprints, blood tests, and DNA;
- a right against unreasonable search, the violation of which may require the exclusionary rule to bar evidence;
- a right against self-incrimination, requiring authorities to read arrestees their Miranda rights before custodial interrogation, the violation of which may require suppression of custodial confessions;
- a right to a fair lineup, the violation of which may require suppression of eyewitness identification;
- a right to counsel, the violation of which requires suppression of the gained confessions;
- a right to fair trial, including a right to confront witnesses, the violation of which may require suppression of the witness's testimony or a new trial;
- a right to a fair and representative jury, the violation of which requires a new trial; and
- that the prosecution must prove each element of a charge beyond a reasonable doubt, the failure in which requires the charge's dismissal.
A Professional's Best Outcome on Domestic-Violence Charges
The above discussion shows how the representation of skilled criminal-defense attorney Joseph D. Lento can defeat domestic-violence charges against a professional in Montgomery County. Domestic violence is a serious charge that the public rightly condemns. But public condemnation does not establish the automatic guilt of every person charged with domestic violence. The prosecution must prove domestic-violence charges under the same rules and burdens as other charges.
Every stage of a domestic-violence prosecution provides opportunities for attorney Lento to make a significant difference in the outcome. The expert law services that the Lento Law Firm affords win disputable cases. A professional facing domestic-violence charges needs premier criminal-defense attorney Joseph D. Lento's skilled advocacy just as much as others who face such charges in Montgomery County.
Get Expert Help with Domestic-Violence Charges Now
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many professionals charged in Montgomery County with domestic violence and other serious charges, getting the charges reduced or dismissed, and thereby saving professional practices and careers, and saving family, social, and network relationships. Do not delay. Promptly retain and consult with experienced Pennsylvania criminal-defense attorney Joseph D. Lento. Receive your case evaluation now from the Lento Law Firm by calling (888) 535-3686 or going online.