Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Defenses

Approximately 123 individuals died statewide in 2018 resulting from incidents of domestic violence. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence defines domestic violence as being intentionally committed acts involving “intimidation, battery, sexual assault, and other abusive behavior” that occurs among intimate partners. In many cases, a pattern of behavior develops where the abuser seeks to assert their power. Individuals that face these allegations often experience devastating consequences; therefore, those accused must promptly speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

The Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act (§ 6101)

Pennsylvania's provisions under Domestic Relations explain that domestic violence occurs among “family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood.” Many different acts may constitute domestic violence including:

  • Acts committed with intent or recklessly that result in bodily harm, severe bodily injury, rape, forced intercourse, or sexual assault that may or may not involve a lethal weapon
  • The abuser may create a fearful atmosphere that poses a threat of bodily harm, such as stalking an individual
  • It may be demonstrated through false imprisonment
  • May include physical or sexually-oriented abuse of minor children

Charges of Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania

The criminal laws do not have a specific “domestic violence” charge, rather these cases are brought as either a misdemeanor or felony offenses that relate to violence. Some of the common offenses that apply to these cases are simple or aggravated assault, stalking, recklessly endangering, strangulation, and more. The following chart illustrates the maximum penalties that may be imposed according to Pennsylvania law:

Offense Level

Maximum Incarceration

Maximum Fine

1st Degree Felony

Twenty Years


2nd Degree Felony

Ten Years


3rd Degree Felony

Seven Years


1st Degree Misdemeanor

Five Years


2nd Degree Misdemeanor

Two Years


3rd Degree Misdemeanor

One Year


What Defenses May Apply in Domestic Violence Cases?

Self Defense

A defendant may claim that the use of force was justified to protect themselves. This defense is most appropriate when the accuser was the initial aggressor, there was fear of serious injury, and there were no "reasonable" means of retreating. This defense may also apply to the use of force necessary to protect a third-party under certain circumstances.

Lack of Intent

The charges may be defended based on a lack of any intention to commit the crime. For example, simple assault involves either intentionally attempting to cause bodily harm or recklessly causing harm.

No Serious Bodily Injury

The defense may challenge the assertion that the victim incurred a “serious bodily injury.” State law defines bodily injury as an “impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.” Serious bodily injury constitutes a “substantial risk of death” or some “permanent disfigurement” or loss of function.

Some other defenses and strategies may be considered based on individual circumstances. A knowledgeable defense attorney may challenge the credibility of the accuser or employ tactics that may significantly reduce the severity of the charges.

Seasoned Defense Lawyer Represents Clients in Domestic Violence Cases

Members of law enforcement and prosecutors across Pennsylvania are taking allegations of domestic violence very seriously. In some cases, overburdened court officials may rush to judgment without properly analyzing all the evidence and circumstances involved. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has spent many years representing clients in these types of cases and will ensure your rights are protected and formulate an effective strategy of defense. Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686.

Contact Us Today!

The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.