- Pennsylvania Domestic Violence
- Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Crimes and Penalties
- Simple Assault – 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2701
- Aggravated Assault – 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2702
- Harassment – 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709
- Stalking – 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709.1
- False Imprisonment – 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2903
- Domestic Violence Mandatory Arrest
- Contact a Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Today
Pennsylvania Domestic Violence
Physical assault, stalking, sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and other criminal offenses involving abuse or threats of abuse are taken very seriously in Pennsylvania, and any time a crime like this involves intimate partners or members of the same family or household, an arrest can result in misdemeanor or felony criminal charges. If you have been charged with domestic abuse in the state of Pennsylvania, you need an attorney on your side who can protect your rights, ensure that you understand the charges you are facing and help you develop a solid defense that challenges the prosecution’s case against you. The punishment for Pennsylvania domestic violence can result in a lengthy jail or prison sentence, substantial fines and other long-lasting consequences, so don’t wait to hire an experienced Pennsylvania domestic violence defense lawyer.
Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Crimes and Penalties
Domestic violence in Pennsylvania is not considered a separate criminal charge from an offense like assault, aggravated assault or harassment. Rather, there are dozens of offenses that can constitute domestic violence in Pennsylvania if the accused and the alleged victim are intimate partners or family or household members, i.e. current or former spouses, people who are currently living or formerly lived as spouses, parents and children, other people related by blood or marriage, current or former sexual or intimate partners, and people who have a child in common. The most common domestic violence-related offenses in Pennsylvania are as follows.
Simple Assault – 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2701
Simple assault is a crime that occurs any time a person:
- Attempts to cause or intentionally or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person,
- Negligently causes bodily injury to another person by use of a deadly weapon, or
- Attempts by physical menace to put another person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
Simple assault is a second-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania and the penalties for a simple assault conviction may include up to two years in prison, up to $5,000 in fines, or both.
Aggravated Assault – 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2702
Aggravated assault is a more serious assault crime occurring when a person:
- Attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another person, or knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life,
- Attempts to cause or intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to another person with a deadly weapon,
- Attempts to cause or knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to a child six years of age or younger (by a person 18 years of age or older), or
- Attempts to cause or knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to a child 13 years of age or younger (by a person 18 years of age or older).
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the charge, aggravated assault can be charged as a second-degree or first-degree felony, punishable by up to $25,000 in fines and/or a maximum sentence of 10 or 20 years in prison, respectively.
Harassment – 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709
A person commits the crime of harassment in Pennsylvania when he or she, with the intention of harassing, annoying or alarming another person:
- Strikes, kicks, shoves or otherwise subjects the other person to physical contact, or threatens to do so,
- Follows the other person,
- Engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts that serve no legitimate purpose,
- Communicates to or about another person any lascivious, lewd, threatening or obscene words, language, drawings or caricatures, or
- Communicates repeatedly in an anonymous manner or at extremely inconvenient hours.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the offense, harassment can be classified as a summary offense or a third-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 90 days, up to $5,000 in fines, or both. If the defendant has previously violated a domestic violence restraining order involving the same victim, family or household member, the classification of the offense will be enhanced one degree.
Stalking – 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709.1
In Pennsylvania, the crime of stalking occurs any time a person:
- Engages in a type of behavior or repeatedly communicates to or commits acts towards another person, including following the person around, under circumstances that demonstrate an intent to cause that person substantial emotional distress or place that person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.
As a first offense, stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania, punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, up to $10,000 in fines, or both. A second or subsequent offense, however, can be charged as a third-degree felony carrying a possible penalty of up to seven years’ imprisonment, up to $15,000 in fines, or both.
False Imprisonment – 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2903
False imprisonment is a criminal offense occurring any time a person:
- Knowingly restrains another person unlawfully so as to interfere substantially with that person’s liberty.
A violation of 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2903 is a second-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania, and a conviction carries a possible penalty of up to two years in prison, up to $5,000 in fines, or both. If the alleged victim is a minor under the age of 18, the crime of false imprisonment can be charged as a second-degree felony, whether the offender is the minor’s parent or not.
Domestic Violence Mandatory Arrest
Under Pennsylvania law, when the police respond to a domestic violence call and someone claims that a member of their family or household committed an act of domestic violence against them, the police are required to make an arrest (18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2711). Some people find this out the hard way when an argument between spouses, family members or household members gets out of hand and one person accuses the other of abuse or threatened abuse. Even if that person changes his or her mind after cooling off and realizing that they took it too far, the damage is already done. Once an arrest has been made, it is up to the prosecutor to decide whether to dismiss the case or move forward with criminal charges. The alleged victim in a Pennsylvania domestic violence incident does not have the power to “drop” the charges.
Contact a Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Today
If you have been arrested or charged with domestic abuse in Pennsylvania, you should consult with a domestic violence defense attorney right away. The term “domestic violence” is broadly defined under Pennsylvania law and there are dozens of offenses that can constitute acts of domestic violence if committed against an intimate partner, a family member or a member of your household. Don’t leave the outcome of your criminal case up to chance – contact a skilled Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer today to represent your defense.