Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer | Philadelphia, PA
Speak with a Philadelphia Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Today
If you are facing criminal charges relating to allegations of domestic violence or have been served with a Protection from Abuse order, our Philadelphia defense lawyers will fight for you. We have successfully represented thousands of clients in cases involving domestic abuse allegations and restraining orders. We are understanding and experienced criminal defense lawyers who will use our high level of skill and experience on your behalf. If you have been accused of domestic assault or abuse, call 267-225-2545 for a free domestic violence defense strategy session.
Domestic Violence Charges in Pennsylvania
Domestic violence ("DV") cases typically involve allegations of assault or robbery against a family member, significant other, or romantic partner. Domestic violence allegations can be particularly serious as the legislature has increasingly enacted laws to ensure that police and prosecutors make arrests and bring charges even in cases with little corroborating evidence. Further, DV cases can be particularly problematic due to the social stigma surrounding domestic violence, the possibility of a criminal conviction and incarceration, and the collateral consequences such as the potential to lose your job, children, and reputation.
Allegations of domestic violence or abuse can result in both criminal and civil proceedings. If the complainant makes a report to the police or police respond to a 911 call, then the police and prosecutors could bring criminal charges. There are a number of possible charges which are commonly seen in domestic violence cases. For example, defendants in domestic violence court often face charges including:
- Aggravated Assault (F1 and F2)
- Simple Assault
- Recklessly Endangering Another Person
- Terroristic Threats
- Violations of the Uniform Firearms Act ("VUFA" or Gun Charges)
Domestic Violence Court in Philadelphia
In Philadelphia, criminal domestic violence cases are prosecuted by a specialized unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. The Family Violence and Sexual Assault unit of the DA's Office is responsible for prosecuting all cases involving family members or romantic partners, and domestic cases are initially heard in Courtrooms 906 and 405 of the Criminal Justice Center. In cases where the defendant is facing a felony charge, the preliminary hearing will be heard in one of those court rooms. If the defendant is facing only a misdemeanor charge like Simple Assault, then the case will instead be listed for trial without the benefit of a preliminary hearing.
There are two common diversionary programs which may be offered in Philadelphia Domestic Violence Court when any alleged injuries suffered by the complainant are not particularly severe. The first program is for defendants with no or limited prior records. If the defendant accepts the program, then the defendant will be required to complete community service, pay a fine, and undergo 8-10 counseling sessions through a court-approved program. If the defendant completes the program, then the charges will be dismissed and may be expunged.
In cases where the defendant has prior arrests or the allegations are more serious, then the defendant may be required to enter a conditional guilty plea. The defendant will then be required to complete many of the same requirements such as counseling, a fine, and community service. Again, if the defendant successfully completes all of the requirements, then the charges will be dismissed. However, if the defendant violates the terms of the program, then the court may accept the conditional plea and sentence the defendant to probation or jail time, thereby leaving the defendant with a permanent criminal record.
You should not just assume that you will automatically qualify for one of the diversionary programs or that the programs are necessarily right for you. The second program, in particular, is risky as it could lead to a conviction if you have difficulty completing it. Therefore, it is extremely important that if you are facing charges, you consult with an experienced defense attorney who can investigate your case, evaluate the strength of the prosecution's evidence, and help you reach a decision on whether to apply for or accept entry into one of these programs.
Protection From Abuse Orders
In addition to criminal charges, allegations of domestic abuse often lead to litigation in Family Court if the complainant seeks a Protection From Abuse order. When the complainant is a family member or romantic partner, then the complainant may obtain an emergency, ex parte Protection From Abuse order by filing a Petition in Family Court. The complainant must then arrange for the defendant to be served with the order, and service will often be made by the police department. Once the defendant has been served with the emergency order, the defendant may not have any contact with the complainant or the defendant could be arrested and charged with Contempt of Court for violating the restraining order.
Although the Family Court will grant the initial, emergency order without a hearing or opportunity to contest the allegations, the Court must hold a prompt hearing on whether a permanent Protection From Abuse order should be entered. At that hearing, the plaintiff will have to show that the defendant committed some sort of abuse, typically meaning a violent act or threatening behavior, which makes a Protection From Abuse Order necessary. If the Court finds that abuse has occurred and an Order is necessary, then the judge may issue a permanent Protection From Abuse Order for up to three years. The hearing on the permanent order is somewhat similar to a criminal trial. Both parties may be represented by counsel, and the parties will be under oath and able to testify. Likewise, the parties may introduce evidence and call witnesses.
Although a permanent Protection From Abuse Order is not the same thing as a criminal conviction, a finding against the defendant can be just as serious as a criminal conviction. The State Police maintain a record of Protection From Abuse orders, and therefore the existence of the order could show up on a background check of the defendant. Additionally, the Protection From Abuse statute gives the Court the authority to order the defendant to relinquish firearms, stay away from the plaintiff, and even move out of the house if the parties share a dwelling. Thus, the consequences of a Protection From Abuse Order can be extremely severe. Further, in cases in which the allegations have been fabricated, the PFA Order gives the complainant additional leverage to seek criminal charges as the police may arrest the defendant if the complainant alleges any further contact.
we can help with domestic violence allegations
Domestic violence allegations are serious. They can lead to criminal conviction, jail time, and even the loss of your home. Given the serious consequences, it is critical that if you are facing allegations of domestic abuse, that you hire experienced criminal defense counsel who will fight for you. Our experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers have extensive experience and proven track records of success in defending clients against domestic abuse allegations. Call 267-225-2545 for a free strategy session today.