What you think is just an argument can turn into something much more. Who knows what happened? A neighbor may hear raised voices and call the police. The police arrive and decide an argument ensued and so someone must be arrested for domestic violence. Domestic violence in Pennsylvania carries serious consequences when not addressed immediately. These consequences can be both civil and criminal. If you have been charged in Pittsburgh with a domestic violence or related offense, it's imperative to contact a domestic violence defense attorney.
You have rights, and at Rogers & Rogers, PC, we are here to uphold your rights and defend any allegations made against you. Call us at (412) 434-7500 to schedule a Free Initial Consultation today.
Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania
Domestic violence describes a range of harm committed in the context of a domestic relationship, usually between spouses, intimate partners, or relatives, but in some jurisdictions, it can also include roommates or other members of the household. Examples of physical acts that can arise from domestic violence include punching, hitting, slapping, or shoving. However, it could extend to other patterns of abusive behavior, like threats of violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and financial abuse.
State-based legislation varies in terms of both the nature of the relationship and the type of conduct required to prove a domestic violence offense. While domestic violence offenses are usually prosecuted at a state level, federal domestic violence legislation exists. In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This Act and subsequent additions to the Act acknowledge domestic violence as a national crime and provide assistance to overburdened state and local criminal justice systems.
The following are federal crimes under VAWA if they are committed within the maritime or territorial lands of the United States or if the offender crosses state or foreign lines to:
- commit or attempt to commit a crime of violence against an intimate partner (18 U.S.C. Section 2261)
- stalk or harass or to stalk or harass by mail or computer (18 U.S.C. Section 2261A)
- violate a qualifying Protection Order (18 U.S.C. Section 2262)
Consequences of Alleged Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania
When a defendant is charged with a domestic violence offense, the court has the power to order a protection order, also referred to as a restraining or no-contact order, depending on your jurisdiction. Protection orders can be made even when the defendant isn't present in court and before their criminal law matter has been finalized and, in many cases, before the criminal process has really even begun. In essence, when it comes to domestic violence, you can suffer certain consequences before a judge or jury has found you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
When a protection order is issued, it can result in two significant consequences, though there may be other penalties or restrictions imposed:
- It can restrict a defendant's contact with the victim and their children; and
- It can require the defendant to leave the family home.
A person subject to a protective order or convicted of a domestic violence offense is also prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under federal law.
Criminal convictions of any nature, but especially domestic violence offenses, can also impact a defendant's ability to find work or housing. Potential employers or landlords who run a background check may refuse an applicant with a domestic violence conviction.
Penalties of Domestic Violence or a Related Criminal Conviction in Pennsylvania
The sentencing options for domestic violence offenses include many. Much of it depends on the severity of the allegations and any prior protective orders. Generally, penalties can include but are not limited to:
- Domestic violence treatment or counseling programs
When sentencing an offender for a domestic violence offense, the court will take into account aggravating circumstances, like:
- the level of injury sustained by the victim
- whether a weapon was used or a child witnessed the crime
- whether the crime violates an existing protection order
- the personal characteristics of the victim, such as older age or pregnancy
The penalties for domestic violence offenses can quickly become harsher with subsequent convictions in Pennsylvania.
Can Domestic Violence Charges Be Dropped in Pittsburgh?
Domestic violence charges can be dropped, but it is critical to know that they will not be dropped only because the alleged victim of the violence no longer wants charges brought against the alleged suspect. Charges are brought by the state, not by the affected person.
The same is true about the restraining order. Even if the victim no longer wants the protection order, the order remains in effect. Any person who has a restraining order against them must abide by the order or risk further criminal charges and subsequent consequences. Violating a protective order is a serious offense.
Defenses to Domestic Violence Allegations in Pennsylvania
A person can defend against a domestic violence charge in Pennsylvania. However, the specific defenses available to a defendant will depend on the circumstances of their case.
Some common defenses include:
- Self-defense or defense of others, where reasonable force was used to prevent an attack
- Lack of evidence, if the prosecution fails to present enough evidence to prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt
- False allegations, where the victim has lied about what happened
- Accident, where the defendant unintentionally caused the injury
A conviction for a domestic violence offense can have a long-lasting impact on many aspects of a defendant's personal life, including their personal relationships, parenting, and employment. It is always in your best interests to, at a minimum, consult with a domestic violence defense lawyer about any allegations.
Contact a Domestic Violence Defense Attorney in Pittsburgh Today
If you've been charged with a domestic violence offense, you should speak to an experienced domestic violence defense attorney at Rogers & Rogers, PC immediately. We will listen to your version of events, assess the strength of the evidence against you, and advise you of any defenses that may be available to you. Fill out an online submission form or call us at (412) 434-7500 to schedule a Free Initial Consultation today.