HOW CAN YOU FIGHT A CRIMINAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CHARGE?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us that one in four women and one in seven men will be victimized by physical violence from an intimate partner during their lifetimes. In 2018 in Pennsylvania, 123 victims died from incidents of domestic violence.
The definition of domestic violence in this state includes all acts of psychological, physical, or economic violence committed by a family or household member or by an intimate partner against another family or household member or against the other intimate partner.
HOW IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DEFINED BY PENNSYLVANIA LAW?
The law in Pennsylvania defines domestic violence as one or more of the acts listed below when the parties involved are household or family members, intimate or sexual partners, or parents – whether married, divorced, or never married – of the same child:
- intentionally causing or trying to cause rape, bodily injury, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, indecent assault, or incest – with or without a deadly weapon
- causing someone reasonably to fear imminent serious bodily injury
- sexually or physically abusing a minor
- false imprisonment
WHO DETERMINES IF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CHARGES WILL BE FILED?
Pennsylvania does not have a separate law against “domestic violence” but considers any of the actions listed above as crimes of domestic violence when the purported victim is a household or family member, an intimate or sexual partner, or the other parent of the alleged assailant’s child.
When a purported domestic violence victim calls the police and claims that a household or family member has committed domestic violence, police officers are required by law to make an arrest. A prosecutor, and not the alleged victim, will then decide whether or not to file charges.
In Cumberland and Dauphin County, if you are charged with any crime of domestic violence, you must be represented by an attorney who has considerable experience handling criminal domestic violence cases – Lemoyne domestic violence defense attorney R. Davis Younts.
WHEN WILL THE POLICE ARREST SOMEONE FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?
The state of Pennsylvania allows a law enforcement officer to arrest a domestic violence suspect without an arrest warrant when the officer has evidence that the suspect committed one or more of these crimes against a family or household member:
- involuntary manslaughter
- child abuse or child endangerment
- simple or aggravated assault
- stalking, kidnapping, or criminal trespass
- terroristic threats
If a defendant is convicted of committing any crime of domestic violence, that person will be punished more harshly by Pennsylvania courts than someone who is convicted of the same crime in circumstances that do not constitute domestic violence.
You should also know that federal law makes it a crime for anyone who has been convicted of a domestic violence offense – even a misdemeanor domestic violence offense – to possess a firearm or the ammunition for a firearm.
WHAT IS AN ORDER OF PROTECTION?
In all fifty states, the courts issue orders of protection to the alleged victims of domestic violence. How do orders of protection work in Pennsylvania?
Alleged victims of domestic violence in this state may seek a temporary “order of protection” from the courts. When someone seeks a temporary order of protection, the court will schedule and conduct a hearing within ten days of the request.
The “defendant” – the alleged abuser named in the order of protection – is notified about the hearing and is allowed to offer evidence in his or her defense. However, if the party seeking protection can prove his or her abuse allegations, the court will grant a “final” protection order.
A police officer may also make an arrest without an arrest warrant if that officer has evidence that an order of protection has been violated. At that time, the police may also confiscate any firearms or ammunition in the alleged abuser’s possession.
WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMEONE VIOLATES AN ORDER OF PROTECTION?
Anyone who violates an order of protection is guilty of “indirect criminal contempt” in Pennsylvania, and a conviction is punishable with a six-month jail term and a fine of $1,000.
Changes have been made to Pennsylvania’s domestic violence laws in recent years. Depending on the details of a particular case, the penalty for a domestic violence conviction will range from attending a court-ordered anger management class to serving a lengthy term in a state prison.
The exact sentence for a domestic violence conviction will depend on the details of the incident and the defendant’s previous record and conduct. As you might imagine, individuals with prior domestic violence convictions will be dealt with more harshly than first-time offenders.
Apart from the criminal penalties, a conviction in Pennsylvania for a crime of domestic violence can also negatively affect:
- a court’s child custody orders and provisions
- your future employment opportunities
- your right to earn or maintain a professional license
HOW WILL A DEFENSE LAWYER HANDLE YOUR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASE?
Your attorney will evaluate the details of the charge to develop an effective defense strategy. The possible defense arguments that your attorney may offer in a domestic violence case include:
- You acted in self-defense, the defense of another person, or the defense of your property.
- You had no criminal intent, no one was hurt, and your conduct was legal.
- The claim against you was entirely fabricated, and no crime took place.
- In some cases and circumstances, provocation may be offered as a valid defense.
Be entirely honest and transparent with your domestic violence defense attorney – and do not discuss your case with anyone else. Your cooperation will help your attorney develop an effective and appropriate defense.
ACCUSED OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE? CONTACT ATTORNEY R. DAVIS YOUNTS
A charge of domestic violence is an accusation against a person’s character. If you are charged with a crime of domestic violence or named in an order of protection, consult with a lawyer who has substantial experience representing defendants who are accused of domestic violence.
Attorney R. Davis Younts fights for justice on behalf of those charged with crimes in military, federal, and Pennsylvania state courts. With eighteen years of legal experience, he is a former prosecutor, JAG (Judge Advocate General), and Senior Defense Counsel in the U.S. Air Force.
If you are named in an order of protection or charged with a crime of domestic violence, call defense attorney R. Davis Younts promptly at (833) 739-5291 or (717) 612-4840. If your freedom and your future are at stake, you must have a good lawyer’s help and advice.