Facing Domestic Violence Charges in Allegheny County? We Can Help.
The repercussions from a domestic violence charge are among the most traumatizing of any criminal offense. If you have been charged with attacking someone in your family, you risk being sent to jail, and you are in jeopardy of being forbidden to return home, prohibited from seeing your children, and having your family relationships damaged beyond repair. It is critical to have a strong defense during this difficult time.
If you are facing domestic violence charges in Pittsburgh, call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys at (412) 281-2146 for a free and confidential consultation. Our domestic violence lawyers have decades of experience in Allegheny County courts and will review the details of your case and advise you on your legal options.
Domestic Violence Accusations
Once a domestic abuse charge is filed, Pittsburgh area courts will usually not dismiss the charges even if the alleged victim asks to withdraw them.
Domestic violence accusations are frequently made during a bitter divorce or custody actions. Even if they are not legitimate, they can still cause many serious problems.
False Allegations of Domestic Violence
If you are unsure if your actions amount to domestic violence, or if you have been falsely accused of criminal conduct, contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys as soon as possible. Police officers very often make arrests too quickly and without proper evidence in an effort to de-escalate matters. However, this is little comfort to someone suddenly charged with domestic abuse.
An attorney from our firm can review what really happened, find evidence that supports your version of events, and work to protect you from a painful domestic violence conviction.
Protection from Abuse Orders
In Pennsylvania, victims of domestic violence can ask the courts for a protection from abuse order (PFA). Abuse victims can file a PFA order against a spouse or ex-spouse, a parent, child, or other intimate partner or family member. PFA orders can remain in effect for up to three years and offer protective relief to abuse victims in several ways, such as directing the alleged abuser to:
- Cease all communication with the victim
- Turn over firearms and other weapons
- Stay away from the victim’s school, home, or workplace
- Attend a counseling program
If you are subject to a PFA order, you will be prohibited from returning home if you live with the victim. The PFA can also give your spouse temporary custody of your children. This may severely limit your visitation rights, and you may be unable to see your children.
PFA orders also remain in effect across county lines, state lines, and tribal lands. The consequences of violating a PFA order can be severe, resulting in fines of up to $1,000 and a maximum of six months of incarceration.
Domestic Violence Charges in PA
Domestic violence charges in Pittsburgh are a serious matter, and they frequently impact individuals and families throughout Allegheny County.
23 Pa. Code §6102 defines domestic violence in PA as abuse between:
- Family members, including current and ex-spouses, parents, children, siblings, and other blood relatives or individuals related by marriage
- Household members, not including roommates
- Current or former sexual or intimate partners
- Individuals who have children together
When you are connected to the alleged victim in one of the way described above, you may be charged with domestic violence if you committed or tried to commit:
- Sexual assault
- Statutory sexual assault
- Aggravated indecent assault
- Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
- Sexual abuse of a minor child
- Simple assault
- Aggravated assault
- False imprisonment
- Reckless endangerment of another person
How a Domestic Violence Charge Can Harm You
Depending on the cicrumstances of your domestic violence case, you could deal with the following consequences:
- You may be sentenced to serve time in jail.
- The police may seize your guns and ammunition during an arrest.
- If you are found guilty of a domestic violence offense, you can lose your right to own a firearm for life.
- Domestic violence charges can severely damage your family’s stability.
- Your relationships with family members can be harmed for life.
- When your employer finds out you were arrested for a violent crime, it can also damage your employment, and you may even lose your job.
- You will have a criminal record that can negatively affect your ability to get a good job, join the military, obtain specific professional licenses, or seek higher education.
Penalties for Domestic Violence Charges in Pittsburgh
Domestic violence covers several distinct charges, so the penalties are based on the specific classification and circumstances involved. Generally, domestic violence convictions result in:
- Third-degree misdemeanor– Up to 1 year in jail and a fine up to $2,000.
- Second-degree misdemeanor– Up to 2 years in jail and a fine up to $5,000.
- First-degree misdemeanor– Up to 5 yearsin jail and a fine up to $10,000.
- Third-degree felony– Up to 7 years in prison, and a fine up to $15,000.
- Second-degree felony– Up to 10 years in prison, and a fine up to $25,000.
- First-degree felony– Up to 20 years in prison, and a fine up to $25,000.
Convictions may also include probation, community service, restitution, the seizure of any firearms, a protection order, and more depending on the facts.
Domestic Violence Arrests in Pittsburgh
When the police are called in, they will look for the alleged victim to see if there are any injuries or other evidence of domestic abuse. If they observe sufficient evidence, they will have probable cause to arrest you.
Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Laws
Pennsylvania does not have a law devoted solely to domestic abuse crimes. Charges are made under several different criminal statutes, depending on the specific crime, including Pennsylvania’s Protection from Abuse Act. The federal Violence Against Women Act can also come into play if you violate a protective order. Many domestic violence crimes will fall under the Commonwealth’s assault statutes (Title 18, Chapter 27 of the Pennsylvania Code).
Domestic Abuse and Your Family
Domestic violence covers assaults on current or former spouses, live-in or former live-in partners, children, parents, people related by blood or marriage, people who have a child together, and current or former sexual partners.
Under Pennsylvania law, you don’t have to injure your family member for domestic abuse to take place. You can still be charged if you cause them to fear imminent serious injury.
Speak to a Pittsburgh Domestic Violence Attorney for a Strong Defense
If you have been charged with domestic violence in Allegheny County, you should contact a Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced Pittsburgh domestic violence attorney may not be able to repair your relationship with the other party. Still, they can fight on your behalf so that you won’t face jail time, lose your rights to see your children or other dependents, and more. Only speak to the police if your attorney is with you. Law enforcement will ask you questions to get you to say something that may be a false or accidental admittance of guilt.
You also should not have any contact with the alleged victim, hard as that may be. If you call, text, or otherwise communicate with that person, what you say can be taken out of context and used against you at a trial.
When you meet with your Pittsburgh domestic violence lawyer, tell them everything that happened, including the names of any possible witnesses. Your Pittsburgh domestic violence attorney will need as much detailed information as possible.
Questions? Contact us.
Your rights are at stake, and you need the best defense to keep them. We will fight using the most vigorous defense available to get your Domestic Violence charge reduced or dismissed so you can move on with your life.
Domestic Violence FAQs
1. When Will a Police Officer Make an Arrest for Domestic Violence?
According to 18 Pa. Code 2711, a police officer may make a domestic violence arrest when there is probable cause that assault, strangulation, or another domestic violence crime has occurred. The officer will look for signs of recent physical injury or other corroborative evidence.
2. Will the Prosecutor Drop Domestic Violence Charges at the Victim’s Request?
Sometimes the prosecutor will drop domestic violence charges if the victim states they will no longer testify against the person who has been charged. However, the prosecutor may, in some cases, continue to seek a conviction regardless of support from the victim.