Accusations of domestic violence are taken very seriously by local law enforcement agencies and local prosecutors in Pennsylvania. As a consequence, domestic violence crimes are prosecuted vigorously, especially when there are allegations of physical harm or when children are involved. Being accused of domestic violence can have far-reaching consequences that can jeopardize your personal and professional life.
Adverse Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction
Accusations of domestic violence can be misleading and in some cases completely false, causing innocent men and women irreparable harm even if they are not convicted of a crime. Domestic violence accusations can often be used by a spouse or domestic partner to gain an advantage in a divorce, child custody matter or other family law proceeding. If you have been charged with a domestic violence offense, it is extremely important to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney at the earliest stage in the case to begin building a strong defense.
I have over a decade of experience providing skilled and aggressive representation to individuals facing domestic violence charges in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties. Contact me at (215) 752-5282 for a free initial consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response. Appointments are available after business hours and on weekends.
Domestic Violence Defined
In Pennsylvania, domestic violence is not classified as specific criminal offense but is used a term to describe crimes involving individuals who are in a relationship such as:
- Individuals who have cohabitated
- Sexual partners
- Former sexual partners
- Individuals related by marriage
- Individuals who are parents of a biological child
- Individuals related by blood
In Pennsylvania, cohabitation is generally defined as two people living together in a relationship similar to that of a husband and wife. The most common domestic violence incidents involve a spouse, domestic partner, boyfriend or girlfriend.
Examples of Domestic Violence Offenses
- Simple Assault
- Aggravated Assault
- Criminal Trespass
- Child Abuse
- Sexual Assault
- False Imprisonment
- Violation of a Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order
Protection from Abuse Orders
A judge will often issue a temporary PFA when a spouse, partner or other family member alleges that abuse has occurred. A temporary or permanent PFA Order prohibits a person from abusing, harassing, stalking or threatening the individual named as the plaintiff in the petition. Pennsylvania law defines abuse as attempting to cause or causing bodily injury or causing fear of bodily injury. Abuse can also include physical or sexual assault of an adult, physical or sexual abuse of minor children, stalking or false imprisonment.
The PFA Hearing Process
A hearing will be held within 10 days of the entry of the temporary PFA Order by the court. At the hearing, the judge will consider evidence from both the plaintiff and the defendant and determine whether to enter a final PFA Order. The standard of proof at the hearing is “preponderance of evidence,” which means the plaintiff must prove that it is more likely than not that the alleged abuse occurred.
Final PFA Order
At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge may issue a final PFA Order lasting up to 3 years. The final PFA Order may include significant restrictions on the rights and freedoms of the individual accused of abuse. I can defend you if you have been falsely accused of abuse and are facing a PFA hearing.
The Police Investigation in Domestic Violence Cases
Under Pennsylvania law, a police officer may arrest a person suspected of domestic violence without an arrest warrant and even if the officer did not witness the acts of domestic violence alleged by the accuser. An arrest can also be made if the police officer observes recent physical injuries, however minor, or other evidence corroborating the allegations of domestic violence. It is important to understand that the police are not required to consider both parties’ versions of an incident or conduct a comprehensive investigation before deciding whether to file domestic violence charges.
Domestic Violence Charges Filed without Corroborating Evidence
The police will often file domestic violence charges based solely on the alleged victim’s statement. A spouse or other household member alleging domestic violence will often immediately seek an emergency temporary PFA Order resulting in the immediate exclusion of the accused party from the residence. An individual accused of domestic violence will often face hearings in criminal court for matters related to criminal charges and hearings in family court for matters related to the PFA Order. I am highly experienced in aggressively defending domestic violence charges in both courts simultaneously.
Potential Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction
- Lengthy period of supervised probation
- Imposition of court-ordered batterers intervention classes
- Entry of a temporary or permanent PFA Order
- Eviction from the home pursuant to a PFA Order
- Court-ordered transfer of firearms to law enforcement
- Loss of child custody and visitation
- Adverse effect on your ability to adopt or become a foster parent
- Potential lifetime ban on ownership of guns and ammunition
- Adverse effect on eligibility for college and graduate school
- Adverse effect on the ability to receive a professional license or certification
- Adverse effect on the ability to enter the military
Domestic Violence Defense
I will thoroughly investigate the facts and circumstances of your case to establish the strongest possible defense against the charges. In some cases, I have been able to resolve the case prior to trial by negotiating with the police and prosecutors to have the charges withdrawn or reduced to lesser offenses. A PFA Petition may be withdrawn or dismissed when it is established that the allegations are false and the defendant has been falsely accused of committing abuse.
Domestic Violence Defense Strategies
My professional network includes many highly skilled independent defense investigators who are able to acquire documentary and testimonial evidence critical to a successful defense in a domestic violence case. I have often used eyewitness statements, video, audio recordings and medical and phone records in court to prove that a false claim of domestic violence was made by the accuser. Other successful defenses I have employed in court include self-defense, defense of others, defense of property, mutual fight and insufficient evidence of a crime or abuse. I will fight to protect your rights and your freedom.
Start with a Strong Defense
If you are facing criminal charges or a PFA order related to domestic violence in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties, it is critical to act quickly in order to protect your rights and to build the strongest possible defense against the charges. Phone lines are open 24 hours a day at (215) 752-5282. Contact me for a free initial consultation or fill out the confidential contact form for an immediate response.