Domestic Violence: The Arrest and Investigation Process in Pennsylvania

What is Considered Domestic Violence in PA?

Actions that constitute domestic violence aren't always clear to accusers or the accused. When families become involved in an emotional dispute, some actions that could be categorized as violent by the accuser may not, in fact, meet the qualifications set forth under PA law. Other times, the accused may not feel the domestic violence accusations are warranted because they didn't mean to cause harm. Ultimately, PA laws specifically define what constitutes domestic violence.

Under 23 Pa. C.S. § 6102, “Abuse” is defined as:

  • “Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or incest with or without a deadly weapon.”
  • “Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury.”
  • “The infliction of false imprisonment pursuant to 18 Pa. C.S. § 2903 (relating to false imprisonment).”
  • “Physically or sexually abusing minor children, including such terms as defined in Chapter 63 (relating to child protective services).”
  • “Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts toward another person, including following the person, without proper authority, under circumstances which place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.”

Not only do the actions of the accused need to consist of one of the above bullet points, but PA law also requires that the abuse occur “between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood” before it can be considered domestic violence.

The law further defines “Family or Household Members” as:

Spouses or persons who have been spouses, persons living as spouses or who lived as spouses, parents and children, other persons related by consanguinity or affinity, current or former sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood.

If you or someone you love is facing domestic violence charges, it's important to find an experienced defense lawyer who can help you mount the defense you deserve. While domestic violence laws are important to society, and serve to protect vulnerable individuals, the accused deserve a chance to defend themselves under the U.S. Constitution.

What to Expect if You're Arrested for Domestic Violence in PA

If law enforcement arrives at your house, or any location, after a report of domestic violence has been made, it's important to understand they do not need an arrest warrant to place you into custody.

Pursuant to 18 Pa. C.S. § 2711 (a):

A police officer may arrest a person for domestic violence without an arrest warrant when the officer has probable cause to believe the accused has committed an act of domestic violence.

Although the officer does not have to be present when the domestic violence is said to have occurred, the law provides that “A police officer may not arrest a person … without first observing recent physical injury to the victim or other corroborative evidence.”

Will I Get Bail After a Domestic Violence Arrest?

Whether or not you'll get bail after an arrest for a domestic violence charge in PA will depend in part on the court's determination of your risk of violence if released from custody.

Pursuant to 18 Pa. C.S. § 2711 (c): “In determining whether to admit the defendant to bail, the issuing authority shall consider whether the defendant poses a threat of danger to the victim.”

This determination is made, in part, through the use of a pretrial risk assessment tool to help determine whether or not the accused will pose a threat to their accusers if released. Importantly, 18 Pa. C.S. § 2711 (c.1) also stipulates that “the pretrial risk assessment tool may not be the only means of determining whether to admit the defendant to bail.”

It's imperative that you contact a PA domestic violence defense attorney who knows how to help present all the facts of your situation so that you are admitted to bail. When bail is denied, you could miss work or other important obligations that are critical to your future.

What to Expect During a Domestic Violence Investigation

When you're investigated for a domestic violence charge, you may be subject to a restraining order during the process.

(Although the technical term that the criminal court uses for a restraining order placed on a defendant in a domestic violence case is a "stay away order", they are in essence the same. A "stay order order" is not to be confused with a Protection from Abuse order, however,) which is issued by a civil court generally at the request of the victim.)

If a restraining order ("stay away order") is placed on you, you absolutely must abide by the terms of the RO even when you feel they are extreme. Even if your accuser decides to forgive you while an RO is in effect, you could still be penalized for violating the terms of the order.

If you're under investigation for domestic violence, you should assume that all of your communications and interactions can be used as evidence against you. You should conduct yourself in a respectful and orderly manner and avoid situations that may be triggers for you. In some cases, it may be helpful to attend meetings for substance abuse or to seek out professional mental health help that can help you move forward while also demonstrating to the court that you have the intentions to do better.

Domestic Violence Charges Can Have Long Term Consequences

Most don't realize the impacts a domestic violence charge can have on their life. While it's probably clear that those accused will have to overcome issues with their personal relationships, if a person is convicted or were to plead guilty to domestic violence charges, they will also have to move through life with a criminal record. A criminal record can impact a person's ability to secure housing, career-enhancing job opportunities, professional licensing, and so forth. Firearm rights, whether for employment or personal reasons, can also be lost. Ultimately, the potential consequences can be various and severe if a domestic violence case is not resolved as best as possible for a defendant.

Contact a PA Criminal Defense Team

If you or a loved one has been accused of domestic violence, you need to contact an experienced Criminal Defense team immediately. LLF Law Firm understands that those accused of domestic violence need and deserve an aggressive defense strategy so they can move forward in their life. To learn how the team can help you today, call 888-535-3686 right away.

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.

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