If you have been arrested for domestic violence, you may be feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about what to do next. The consequences of your arrest could seriously impact your life in a number of ways, and defending yourself against the charges takes legal knowledge and expertise you may not have. Speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to get the help you need, and to learn more about what may be ahead.
Under Pennsylvania law, domestic violence is not a separate violation from other crimes of violence such as assault, assault and battery, or stalking. However, it is a factor that makes other crime charges more complicated. Pennsylvania law requires that an arrest be made any time there is a call for police assistance due to an alleged crime of violence against a family member, intimate partner, or former intimate partner. The arresting officer does not need to witness an act of violence, but can simply observe an injury or other evidence that backs up the alleged victim’s claim.
Once the arrest has been made, a prosecutor will examine the details of the case and determine whether or not to file charges. The alleged victim in the case cannot make the decision for charges to be dropped. Those who have been arrested for domestic violence are not permitted to be released from police custody until they go before a judge who will determine whether they present a danger to the alleged victim or others.
If you are arrested, it is critically important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney present as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. One of the first things your attorney can do is review how the arrest took place, and the injury or evidence that the arresting officer used to justify the arrest for domestic violence.
Protection From Abuse Order
Once a person is charged with a domestic violence-related crime, they may be subject to both a criminal proceeding and also a civil case related to a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order. Similar to restraining orders, a PFA places restrictions on the accused, including preventing them from returning to their home if it is shared with the alleged victim, or going to places where the alleged victim will be. A PFA can also restrict the accused from possessing a firearm. The nature and extent of restrictions are determined by the judge.
An alleged victim may apply for a temporary PFA by claiming they feel an immediate threat of danger exists. A hearing will be held before a judge, but the defendant in the case will not be notified. If the temporary PFA is granted it will remain in place until another hearing at which the defendant will appear. At that hearing, the temporary PFA may be extended, modified, or terminated.
Additionally, the alleged victim may file for a PFA with a hearing within ten days of the filing of the petition. In this situation, the defendant is welcome to attend the hearing and present evidence. If the alleged victim is able to prove that there is a need for the PFA, the court will enter a final protection from abuse order that may last up to three years, and can be extended if the defendant is convicted of a new act of abuse during that time.
In cases where a PFA is at issue, a criminal defense attorney is vital to ensure the best possible outcome. They may gather and present evidence to challenge the PFA being implemented, or, if you are prepared to agree to a PFA, they can work to negotiate lesser restrictions.
Ten Reasons to Fight a Domestic Violence Charge
If you have been charged with a domestic violence-related crime, it is important that you hire an advocate to fight for you and try to avoid a conviction. Here are ten reasons why:
- Your freedom. Depending on the facts of your case, you could be convicted of a felony violence charge and sentenced to time in jail.
- Your relationship with your children. A PFA order can impact your ability to retain custody or exercise parenting time (visitation) of your children. A domestic violence conviction can be used against you in family court during divorce proceedings.
- Job opportunities. Many employers conduct a background check on potential employees and will not hire a candidate who has a conviction for a violent crime.
- Employment security. A domestic violence conviction may cause you to lose your existing job if you are in a caretaking field, such as education or health care. Additionally, if you are prohibited from possessing firearms, a conviction can impact or end your career if you are in the military or work in law enforcement.
- Housing. Like employers, landlords often perform background checks and may decline potential tenants with a criminal record and history of violence.
- Your Second Amendment rights. Your ability to legally possess firearms can be invalidated by a PFA order, and a felony conviction may result in your being prohibited from purchasing a firearm or ammunition for life, in accordance with federal laws.
- Your reputation. A domestic violence conviction can impact your reputation with family, friends, and your community, and may also cause irreparable harm to your professional reputation.
- Restricted movement. Your activities may be restricted, and violations of a protection order can result in additional charges being brought against you.
- Compulsory education and/or service. You may be required to attend alcohol or anger management classes, or to complete community service.
- Cost. The fines and penalties related to a domestic violence conviction can be expensive, and if the alleged victim in your case is successful in getting a PFA, you may be required to pay for losses they claim they have incurred due to the abuse.
Don’t Delay—Call The Zeiger Firm for Help With Your Domestic Violence Case
A domestic violence conviction can impact nearly every facet of your life. Don’t delay in getting the legal help you need. The legal team at The Zeiger Firm are experienced in criminal defense, and we work hard to ensure our clients’ rights are protected. For a free consultation, contact The Zeiger Firm at (215) 546-0304 or online today and learn if we may be able to help you.