If you have been accused of a crime like kidnapping or child endangerment, you may not know what to do. When you allegedly victimized someone, people in your life look at you differently. Friends you have had for years, and family members you have known your entire life, begin to doubt and question you. You may not know where to turn.
Whether you are under investigation for these allegations or have been charged, we recommend calling a family crimes lawyer at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys. Our Greensburg criminal defense firm has decades of experience handling violent, sexual, and family crimes in and around Westmoreland, County, PA. We know how to protect your rights during an investigation and fight for the best possible outcome in your case, be that a dismissal, plea bargain, or acquittal.
What Is a Family Crime?
Society has a considerable interest in promoting the family unit. The logic behind this is that when families are stable, healthy, and happy, we all thrive. Because of this link between families and cultural and financial advancement, the government takes a keen interest in not only upholding the family structure, but also harshly punishing crimes that interfere with families. Many violent and sexual offenses are known as family crimes because they undermine the safety and virtue of the family unit.
If you are accused of performing a crime against the family in Greensburg, PA, you need to call a family crimes attorney as soon as possible. You are going to need a highly experienced and skilled defense attorney to protect your rights during a law enforcement investigation and advance your interests. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, we will focus on aggressively defending you against family crime allegations and obtaining the best possible outcome in your case.
Types of Family Crimes
There are many common family crimes, including kidnapping, abduction, unlawful restraint, luring a child into a building or vehicle, stalking, interfering with child custody, bigamy, child endangerment, violation of a protection from abuse order, and others. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, we are here to defend you against all of these offenses and others. Do not hesitate to call us to speak with a family crimes lawyer about all options.
Some of the most common charges our Greensburg family crimes lawyers handle include:
Kidnapping (18 Pa. Code §2901)
Kidnapping refers to unlawfully removing another person (a child or adult) a substantial distance or unlawfully confining another person for a substantial period in an isolated place, with the intent to:
- Hold the person for ransom or reward;
- Use the person as a shield or hostage;
- Facilitate the commission of any felony or your flight from a felony offense;
- Inflict bodily injury on the person;
- Terrorize the victim or another person; or
- Interfere with the performance of public officials of any government or political function.
The law states the removal of a person is unlawful if it is accomplished through force, threat of force, or deception, or for a child or incapacitated adult, if it accomplished without a parent or guardian’s consent.
Kidnapping of a child or adult is a first-degree felony. If you are accused of kidnapping, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, or another kidnapping-related offense, then you should call our family crimes lawyers in Greensburg right away.
Stalking (18 Pa. Code §2709.1)
In Greensburg, PA, stalking is defined as engaging repeated acts toward another person, including following the person that demonstrates an intent to place that person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress; or engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly communicating to another person under circumstances that show you intend to place the victim in reasonable fear of injury or to cause them substantial emotional distress.
Stalking is not a one-time event. For a prosecutor to prove you committed this offense, they must show you engaged in several acts of stalking, such as following the victim to and from work, errands, or social events; repeatedly sending the victims texts or emails; or repeatedly calling the victim. The prosecutor also must prove you took these actions to intentionally cause the victim to be afraid or distressed.
A first-time stalking offense can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. However, if this is a second stalking offense or you were previously convicted of a crime that victimized the same victim, then stalking is a third-degree felony.
Child Endangerment (18 Pa. Code §4304)
If you are accused of committing child endangerment in Greensburg, you may face several criminal charges. A common offense is under the Pennsylvania law regarding endangering the welfare of children. You can be charged with this crime if you are a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a child under the age of 18 years old, and you endanger the welfare of that child by violating your duty of care, protection, or support.
For a one-time situation, you may face a first-degree misdemeanor. However, if you are accused of a course of conduct that endangered a child in your care, then the crime is a third-degree felony. If your repeated behavior placed the child at a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury, you will face a second-degree felony. Additionally, if the minor was under six years old at the time, then your charge will be one grade higher.
A wide range of intentional and accidental conduct can lead to child endangerment accusations. You may face this charge if you leave young children home alone or in the car while you run into the store. You also may face these accusations from an unhappy ex-spouse or child’s other parent, particularly if they hope to influence a divorce or child custody battle. If you are accused of child endangerment in Greensburg, your first step should be to call a family crimes lawyer.
Potential Statutory Punishments for Family Crimes
As you can see from some of the most common family crimes, these offenses range in type and degree. Some of them are low-level misdemeanors while others are felonies. In certain circumstances, you can face a first-degree felony and decades in prison.
In general, Pennsylvania punishes misdemeanors and felonies as:
- Third-Degree Misdemeanors: $2,000 in fines, a maximum of one year of imprisonment.
- Second-Degree Misdemeanors: $5,000 in fines, up to two years of incarceration.
- First-Degree Misdemeanors: $10,000 in fines, up to five years of imprisonment.
- Third-Degree Felonies: $15,000 in fines, up to seven years of incarceration.
- Second-Degree Felonies: $25,000 in fines, up to 10 years in prison.
- First-Degree Felonies: $25,000 in fines, up to 20 years in prison.
Fines and incarceration will not be your only penalties. You also may be required to pay restitution to your victims, undergo counseling and mental health treatment, complete community service, adhere to probation for months or years, and abide by an order of protection.
Allegations or a Conviction Can Impact Your Parental Rights
If your child is the alleged victim, then these charges and a conviction will affect your parental rights. Your child custody or visitation may be revoked. The court may order you to have no contact with your child and the other parent. In some circumstances, the other parent may request the court to remove your parental rights entirely. As a parent accused of a family crime in Greensburg, it is absolutely essential that you contact a family crimes attorney as soon as possible.
Additional Collateral Consequences of a Family Crime
If you are convicted of a family crime, there are several other repercussions you may deal with. In addition to the statutory penalties and loss of child custody and visitation, you may experience:
- Difficulties finding and maintaining a job
- Ineligibility for or difficulties obtaining certain professional licenses
- Educational hurdles
- Difficulties being approved for rental housing
- Difficulties being approved for personal loans
- Loss of an immigration visa
- Denial of a permanent residency or citizenship application
- Difficulty traveling internationally
- Loss of voting rights for a period of time
- If convicted of a felony or domestic abuse, loss of your right to own or possess a firearm
Defending Against Family Crime Charges in Greensburg
If you have been accused of any type of crime against the family, you need to work with an experienced family crimes lawyer to determine your strongest defense. There are many potential defenses to these crimes, including:
- You had explicit consent from the other person or their parent or guardian
- You reasonably believed you had consent from the other person or their parent or guardian
- You reasonably believed you had the right to act as you did due to your parental rights, such as taking your child from school for the day
- You lacked the necessary intent to commit the offense
- These are false allegations, and your accuser has an ulterior motive
- The police conducted an illegal search and seizure
- There is insufficient evidence to prove you committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt
Not all of these defenses will be appropriate in your case. It is essential you speak with a knowledgeable and skilled attorney before determining how to proceed.
Contact a Family Crimes Lawyer For Advice Today
If you or a loved one have been accused of or charged with a family-related offense, do not hesitate to call a lawyer at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys. A strong legal defense will be necessary to obtain a fair outcome in this case.
We will thoroughly analyze the allegations against you and the prosecutor’s evidence. We may seek to have certain evidence ruled inadmissible in order to limit what can be used against you. Then, we may pursue a plea agreement on your behalf or plan to defend you at trial. We will discuss with you the various options and potential outcomes.