While there are abusers who deserve severe legal consequences for harming innocent people, we must not overlook the falsely accused in these situations as well. Domestic violence is an incredibly stigmatized crime in society. Thus, merely facing allegations of this crime will complicate your life, regardless of if you're truly innocent or guilty. A charge alone can adversely affect your employment, your schooling, your relationship with your children, and your reputation. The repercussions of a conviction are exponentially more devastating.
If you live in West Chester and have been arrested for domestic violence, it's imperative you seek legal counsel. With a crime like this looming over your head, you're going to need the help of an attorney who knows the ins and outs of Pennsylvania law and has a thorough understanding of the system. It's equally important for you to understand the gravity of these charges (in case you need convincing that retaining an attorney is absolutely necessary). Here's an overview of domestic violence specifically for West Chester defendants.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania?
The following actions constitute domestic violence in PA if they are committed against a family or household member:
- Knowingly, intentionally or recklessly causing bodily injury of any kind
- Causing fear of bodily injury of any kind
- Sexually abusing minor children
- Knowingly engaging in repetitive conduct towards a certain person (also known as stalking) that puts them in fear of bodily injury
Defining “Family and Household Members”
Domestic abuse is differentiated from other forms of abuse through the relationship between an abuser and the alleged victim. Domestic abuse occurs between family and household members. These relationships are characterized by the following:
- Spouses or former spouses
- Persons living as spouses or who lived as spouses
- Parents and children
- Current or former sexual or intimate partners
- Persons who share biological parenthood
Domestic Violence Penalties
Due to the many changes domestic violence law has undergone in recent years, penalties for this offense vary. Overall, sentences for this crime largely depend on the severity of the abuse the victim endured and the defendant's pattern of conduct. Therefore, based on the unique circumstances of a case, the penalties range from being ordered to take anger management classes to being ordered to spend several years in prison. Regardless, you shouldn't expect leniency in a domestic violence case, the consequences most likely will be tough upon conviction.
Criminal action isn't the only way to resolve domestic violence matters in West Chester. Alleged victims can petition the court for a civil court action, known as Protection From Abuse (PFA) order if they've been abused or are in fear of being abused.
Plaintiffs don't need substantial evidence to serve a temporary PFA. Ultimately, if a Chester County judge deems it necessary, the enforcement of a PFA will bar you from being in the vicinity of the plaintiff. This could lead to your removal from your own home, modifications in your custody agreement, lead to you paying child support to the plaintiff, and could force you to pay losses for the abuse.
It's important to note that violating a PFA order is criminal contempt. If you are found guilty, penalties can include a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment or supervised probation for up to six months, and/or a new protective order or an extension of the original one.
Charged With Domestic Violence? The Lento Law Firm Can Help
If you've been charged with domestic violence in West Chester, it's critical you secure the representation of a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You should never defend yourself in any case, let alone a case as serious as this one. You won't have to face these charges alone with the help of the Lento Law Firm. For a consultation, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento at 888-535-3686.