If you’ve been charged with domestic violence in Pittsburgh, you’re probably concerned about the consequences of a potential conviction. Unfortunately, innocent people are accused of domestic violence every day. If convicted, you could potentially have to serve a jail sentence, pay fines, and lose your freedom, negatively affecting your housing and employment options.
When you need a lawyer to defend you in a domestic violence matter, Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace is here to help. We have an in-depth understanding of domestic violence law in Pittsburgh and extensive experience litigating criminal and civil court cases. After reviewing the facts of your case, we will provide you with an effective legal defense strategy, negotiating the best outcome possible in your domestic violence case. Contact Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace today to schedule your initial consultation.
The Definition of Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania doesn’t have a separate domestic violence criminal charge. Instead, defendants will face additional penalties when they have a familial relationship with the alleged victim. For example, when a criminal charge has been categorized as domestic violence, the defendant can face accompanying civil cases and penalties in addition to the underline criminal charge. Domestic violence charges can involve any of the following criminal actions against one of the following types of family or household members:
- Assault – causing someone to fear an imminent bodily injury
- Attempting to cause injury
- Sexual assault
- Recklessly or intentionally causing bodily injury
- Aggravated indecent assault
- Sexual or physical assault of children
- Engaging in conduct that repeatedly causes fear of injury
The Definition of Family or Household Members
Domestic violence occurs when the alleged crime involves family or household members, including:
- People who live or previously lived as spouses
- Any other family relation
- Intimate partners
- Formerly intimate partners
- Parents of the same child
Under Pennsylvania law, family or household members may be related by marriage, blood, or neither and in the case of intimate partners or parents of the same child. Domestic abuse often involves a weapon, but a prosecutor doesn’t have to prove that the defendant had a weapon to charge him or her. A defendant could be charged with domestic violence even if there was never any actual harm to the alleged victim.
As long as the victim suffered reasonable fear of bodily harm, prosecutors can bring domestic violence charges. The key word is reasonable. Defendants can provide evidence that the alleged victim did not have a reasonable fear of bodily harm. The defendant must show that a reasonable person wouldn’t have feared an injury under the same or similar circumstances.
The Consequences of Domestic Violence Convictions
Those convicted of crimes involving domestic violence face severe criminal penalties. If the alleged crime involves violence, there will often be mandatory jail time, probation, significant fines, and mandatory counseling. When a defendant has a domestic violence conviction on his or her criminal record, it may affect employment opportunities. Many employers will have serious concerns about hiring a person with a domestic violence conviction. Convicted offenders can also face challenges with housing and professional licensure.
Defending Against Protective Orders
Most criminal cases of a domestic nature involve a civil case in which the alleged victim seeks a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order. PFA orders are similar to restraining orders. The alleged victim can obtain a PFA against a family or household member. The process for obtaining a PFA varies from county to county, but in every case, a long-term PFA order can negatively affect your life. You may be required to move out of your home and avoid traveling to certain locations.
In some cases, you may have to find a different job and be barred from seeing your children well unsupervised. If someone is pursuing a PFA order against you, it’s crucial that you speak to an attorney as soon as possible. You have the right to an attorney during the hearing process. Your attorney can present evidence in your favor and negotiate the terms of the PFA out of court. You may be able to avoid hearing altogether. Working with an attorney puts you in a better position when facing a PFA.
Common Defenses Against Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence cases may come down to a he-said-she-said situation where there is no significant evidence proving one party’s side of the story over the other. Some law enforcement officers may quickly decide who to arrest to defuse the situation. These factors can lead to defendants being falsely accused of domestic violence. You may be able to prove that the charge against you is a false allegation through an alibi or other evidence. Every domestic violence case is unique, and the best legal strategy will depend on the facts of your case.
Many domestic violence incidents can be complicated. It can be difficult to determine who was the initial aggressor and who was defending himself or herself. If you can prove that you were acting in self-defense or defense of others, your attorney can petition the court to dismiss the charges against you. Alternatively, you could be acquitted at trial. You will need to show that the force you used was necessary to protect yourself from imminent bodily injury.
Negotiating a Favorable Plea Bargain
Many domestic violence cases are resolved through plea bargaining. In a plea bargain, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge. In exchange, the prosecutor recommends that the judge overseeing the case impose a lighter sentence. Depending on the facts in your case and your goals, a plea bargain may be your best option. However, it may be in your best option to proceed to trial and defend yourself.
Contact a Pittsburgh Domestic Abuse & Criminal Defense Attorney
You aren’t alone if you have been falsely accused of domestic violence. People from all walks of life may find themselves having to deal with the criminal justice system. It’s crucial that you reach out to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace have significant courtroom experience. We know how to aggressively negotiate with prosecutors in domestic violence cases for the best outcome possible for our clients. Contact Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace today to schedule an initial consultation and learn how we can advocate for you.