I’ve Just Been Arrested On Charges Related To Domestic Violence In Pennsylvania. What Exactly Could I Be Charged With?
If you have been arrested on allegations related to domestic violence in Pennsylvania, there are a number of different crimes you could be charged with. The exact charges will depend on the specific allegations made against you. For example, you could be charged with: Simple Assault (18 Pa. Code § 2701), Aggravated Assault (18 Pa. Code § 2702), Recklessly Endangering Another Person (18 Pa. Code § 2705), Terroristic Threats (18 Pa. Code § 2706), Harassment (18 Pa. Code § 2709), Stalking (18 Pa. Code § 2709.1) and/or Strangulation (18 Pa. Code § 2718). If it is alleged that a weapon or object is involved in the act, you could also be charged with Possession of An Instrument of Crime (18 Pa. Code § 907). If it is alleged that there is a gun involved, you could face a number of charges under the Pennsylvania Uniforms Firearms ACT, commonly referred to as “PUFA.”
Lastly, if the allegations by the complaining witness suggest somebody was moved from one location to another, or was unlawfully restrained, you could be charged with kidnapping (18 Pa. Code § 2901), unlawful restraint (18 Pa. Code § 2902), and/or false imprisonment (18 Pa. Code § 2903). Lastly, if there was a protection/restraining order in place at the time of the alleged act, you could be charged with Contempt for Violation of Order or Agreement (23 Pa. Code § 6114).
Does An Alleged Physical Altercation Have To Take Place In Order For An Arrest To Be Made? Or, Is The Threat Of Violence Enough For A Domestic Violence Related Arrest?
The threat of violence is enough to be arrested and charged with a domestic violence offense. There doesn’t actually have to be any physical engagement. The threat of violence communicated to another person, could result in an arrest for the crime of Terroristic Threats (18 Pa. Code § 2706). A person commits the crime of terroristic threats if the person communicates, either directly or indirectly, a threat to:
- commit any crime of violence with intent to terrorize another;
- cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly or facility of public transportation; or
- otherwise cause serious public inconvenience, or cause terror or serious public inconvenience with reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience.
The offense of Terroristic Threats is misdemeanor of the first degree unless the threat causes the occupants of the building, place of assembly or facility of public transportation to be diverted from their normal or customary operations, in which case the offense constitutes a felony of the third degree.
How Does Law Enforcement Determine Who Is The Aggressor When They Arrive At The Scene? What If Both Parties Were Engaged In An Altercation?
In Pennsylvania, when two or more parties are involved in an altercation, all parties can be charged with simple assault, for entering into a mutual fight (18 Pa.C.S. 2701(b)(1).). However, very frequently, only one party will be charged. Oftentimes, law enforcement starts their investigation by interviewing the complaining witness, i.e., the person(s) who called the police and alleged that he/she was a victim of a crime. Sometimes, they’ll also try to interview the accused, and get his/her side of the story.
After interviewing, or attempting to interview, the parties involved an altercation, law enforcement will look to identify independent evidence such as eyewitnesses, ear witnesses, surveillance video, cellphone video and/or audio evidence. The police may also look at cell phone evidence, such as text messages, voice message and phone calls. These communications could reveal who the aggressor actually was.
Additionally, police will look to see if any of the parties have injuries, and determine how those injuries were caused. If one, or both parties, is injured, law enforcement will assess those injuries and compare the injuries to the stories being told by the accused and the accuser. If any parties involved in the alteration have received medical treatment, law enforcement might review that person’s medical records.
In sum, when investigating a physical altercation, law enforcement will look to gather as much independent evidence as possible to determine which party was the aggressor and what actually happened. While it is certainly preferential for there to be eyewitness, surveillance video, physical evidence and other independent evidence, often times this is not the case. All it takes to be charged with a crime is to be accused, and to have law enforcement believe the story being told. If you, a friend or a loved one is being accused of a crime you should not speak to law enforcement without first speaking with an attorney. Scheduling an initial strategy session with Rooney Philly Lawyer is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (215) 795-5940, today.
Is An Order Of Protection Or Restraining Order Automatically Put Into Place When Charges Related To Domestic Violence Are Filed?
If you are arrested for a domestic violence incident, generally, as a condition of your bail / pre-trial release, the court will issue a stay away order. This will require that you have no contact with the alleged victim of the domestic violence incident. Additionally, the alleged victim of domestic violence may petition the court for a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order. This is a civil matter, which is separate and apart from the criminal system (23 Pa.C.S 6101 et. seq.), but could result in you being required to stay away from the alleged victim of domestic violence for up to three (3) years.
If I Am Facing Domestic Violence Related Charges, Can I Still Be In Touch With My Children?
Maybe; maybe not. If the allegation of domestic violence involves the children in any way, the Court may enter a stay away order to protecting the children. The children do not necessarily have to be direct “victims” of the domestic violence, for your access to be affected. Access to your children may also be affected if there’s an allegation that an act of domestic violence was committed around the children. Other than that, the children are not usually specifically provided for in a protection order. But, it could still impact somebody’s rights to see their children. An arrest for domestic violence may implicate custodial rights if the alleged victim of domestic violence, who is protected by a stay away or protection order, has primary custody, physical custody or full custody of the children.
If The Alleged Victim Does Not Want To Press Charges Against Me In A Domestic Violence Case, Does That Mean My Case Will Just Go Away?
If the alleged victim does not want to press charges against you in a domestic violence case, it does not always mean that charges will be dropped. This could be the case in a situation where the police interview the accused, and he/she admits to engaging in the conduct that they he/she is accused of. This admission, in combination with the alleged victims’ visible injuries, that were witnessed by police, can be enough to prosecute without the cooperation of the alleged victim. Remember, “anything you say can and will be used against you…” You should never count on someone not showing up to court as your defense. If arrested for domestic violence, you should immediately consult with an attorney and discuss the specifics of your case. Scheduling an initial strategy session with Rooney Philly Lawyer is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (215) 795-5940, today.
When A Case Is Pending, Should Someone Who Is Facing Domestic Violence Related Charges Seek Any Sort Of Counseling Or Anger Management? Does That Show Guilt To The Court Or Could It Help My Case?
Anger management counseling can certainly be helpful, especially when trying to negotiate a withdraw of charges, or favorable case outcome. By attending counseling, you’re taking some ownership of the accusations, and working to better yourself. This can go a long way with the prosecution and/or the court, and increase the chances of a positive outcome. Additionally, it may be helpful personally. Of course, it is best to have this discussion with your lawyer, because how helpful anger management may or may not be, is dependent on the specifics of your case.
What Strategies Are Used To Defend Clients In Domestic Violence Related Cases? Is Self-Defense Ever A Viable Defense?
There are a number of different strategies that could be used in defense of domestic violence case, what is most appropriate depends on the specifics of the allegations. It is imperative to get the defendant’s side of the story and investigate the accusations. It is important to get the police reports, all police paperwork (discovery), identify potential witnesses, investigate the background of the alleged victim and identify any video footage pertaining to the incident. You should also gather any communications by and between the parties that can help establish who the aggressor was. It is crucial to gather all of this information as quickly as possible so a comprehensive and organized defense can be presented. As with other types of case involving accusations of assault, self defense can be established if you can show that you reasonably believed that the force you used was immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting yourself against the use of unlawful force by the other person, i.e. the complaining witness (See, 18 Pa.C.S 505).
The specific charges, unique defenses and potential punishments for a domestic violence arrest will vary depending on the specific allegations made against you. Depending on the circumstance of your case, you can potentially be sentenced to years in prison. If you are arrested for domestic violence, it is essential that you retain an experienced Philadelphia domestic violence attorney as soon as you can.
For more information on Domestic Violence Cases an initial strategy session with Rooney Philly Lawyer is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (215) 795-5940, today.
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