In Greensburg and throughout Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, domestic violence charges are aggressively pursued and punished severely. However, there are always multiple sides to the story which may make your situation not so clear-cut. The heat of emotion between individuals can cloud judgment, and there is often confusion over what relationships are covered by the domestic violence laws. Regardless of any misunderstandings, there can be no mistake that the penalties for a conviction are strict and harsh. If you’ve been arrested on such charges, you need to take the situation seriously from the very beginning. You’ll be putting your rights, your criminal record, and even your freedom at risk if you don’t hire an experienced Greensburg domestic violence attorney to represent you.
Whatever the circumstances that led to your arrest, Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys and our violent crime lawyers in Greensburg are here to provide quality, skilled legal services in any domestic violence matter. We know that you’re innocent until proven guilty, even when others are quick to judge.
What is Domestic Violence?
State law considers all violent acts against another person to be criminal, so there’s no separate set of domestic violence laws. Instead, situations involving violent offenses are treated somewhat differently when they involve certain personal relationships. Under the Pennsylvania statute, you could be charged with domestic violence if you commit certain crimes against:
- A current or former spouse;
- Parents, children, siblings, and other designated relatives;
- Some household members;
- Your child’s other parent; or,
- A current or former partner in an intimate relationship.
Domestic violence crimes are unique in Pennsylvania because of law enforcement’s response. Police sometimes make arrests based upon accusations – not observations, objective evidence, or probable cause.
Types of Domestic Violence
Beyond the general definition of domestic violence and the individuals who may be involved, there are different categories of conduct that violate Pennsylvania law. As mentioned, there’s no separate offense, but the types of domestic violence acts may include:
Sex Crimes: Sexual assault, including statutory and aggravated versions of this offense, fall in this category. Other examples of sex-related domestic abuse are child molestation, sexual abuse of a minor, rape, and incest with or without a weapon.
Assault: In the context of domestic violence, simple assault is causing or attempting to cause bodily harm to another person. The definition also includes negligently causing injury with a deadly weapon or using threats to place another one in fear of injury. Aggravated assault encompasses many types of violent acts or threats using a weapon with the intent to cause harm.
Other Domestic Violence Offenses: Additional acts that may lead to charges of domestic violence include false imprisonment and kidnapping; reckless endangerment; and, many other violent acts.
In addition, you should note that it’s possible to be charged with domestic violence even if you never come into physical contact with the accuser. Harassment and stalking are included in the offense, which can involve very one-sided, subjective allegations.
Criminal Penalty for Domestic Violence
The criminal sanctions for a domestic violence conviction are based on the underlying crime, so the term of imprisonment, fines, and other punishment varies considerably. A domestic violence attorney can provide specifics on how Pennsylvania domestic violence laws apply to your unique case. On the low end, you could be charged with a misdemeanor. A conviction may mean up to five years’ incarceration, a $10,000 fine, or both. For felony domestic violence, you could be imprisoned for up to seven years or more.
Additionally, there are other consequences for a conviction. The case will show up on any subsequent criminal background check so it could affect your current job or future employment opportunities. The matter can also negatively impact your second amendment rights, jeopardize your immigration status, and irreparably damage your reputation.
Domestic Violence Statistics
Pennsylvania domestic violence laws are intended to protect the safety of victims, especially in light of disturbing statistics. A 2015 survey conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control revealed that:
- About 25 percent of women and 10 percent of men stated that they had reported domestic violence to the authorities;
- Around one-third of respondents mentioned that they’d experienced domestic violence but didn’t report it.
On the other side of the issue, the figures on domestic violence are equally troubling:
- Domestic violence allegations are involved in around 25 percent of all divorces;
- An estimated 70 percent of orders of protection for domestic violence are false or unfounded;
- Approximately 50 percent of orders of protection regarding domestic violence don’t involve any allegations of physical abuse.
Defending Yourself Against a Domestic Violence Charge
Domestic assault or abuse is a crime where the potential for exaggerated, misleading, or outright false accusations is abundant. In such cases, there are often various grounds for attacking the allegations against you. When called to a domestic violence situation, police can make an arrest without witnessing any criminal activity. Probable cause issues offer multiple opportunities to raise reasonable doubt and avoid a conviction.
Other available defenses to domestic violence include:
- Lack of intent to cause harm;
- Consent; and,
- Other arguments based upon your circumstances.
How a Domestic Violence Lawyer Can Help
Prosecutors are aggressive and skilled in court, especially in domestic violence cases. They’re experienced in the arguments that get convictions, and they know how to inspire sympathy from the jury. A domestic violence attorney can anticipate their strategies and arguments, and will respond through tactics that favor your position. When it’s time to put on your defense, your lawyer should be able to present a strong case.
However, disputing the accusations and raising proper defenses is just the beginning of the ways a domestic violence lawyer can provide legal assistance. Your constitutional rights against self-incrimination attach upon your arrest, so an attorney can be at your side during questioning by police. Having counsel represent you at your arraignment, bond hearing, and during pre-trial stages is also vital to the outcome of your case.
Contact a Greensburg Domestic Violence Attorney to Discuss Your Case
The deck may seem like it’s stacked against you when you’re charged with domestic violence in Westmoreland County, but you’re entitled to your day in court. Your best chance at defending yourself and securing the best possible outcome is by contacting Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC . Our domestic violence lawyers are on your side.
Please contact us to schedule a free and confidential consultation with our Greensburg domestic violence lawyers. We’re available 24/7 at (724) 834-1275 or submit the detail of your situation through our online form.