Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer | Philadelphia, PA
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If you are facing criminal charges relating to allegations of domestic violence or have been served with a Protection from Abuse order, our Philadelphia criminal 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 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 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.
Diversionary Programs in Philadelphia Domestic Violence Court
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. In many cases, there may be defenses to the charges which would make it better to go to trial instead of accepting entry into a diversionary program.
Defenses to Domestic Assault Charges
The potential defenses to an allegation of domestic assault will vary depending on the case and the charges. Although these cases are only heard in special courtrooms in the Criminal Justice Center, the defendant is still entitled to all of the same rights as with any criminal charge. If the defendant is charged with a felony, then the defendant will still be entitled to a preliminary hearing. Likewise, if the defendant is held for court at the preliminary hearing, then the prosecution must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at either a trial before a judge or a jury trial. Although the potential defenses will always depend on the charges against you and the nature of the case, potential defenses may include:
Credibility and Motive to Fabricate - In every case, the defense attorney has the ability to cross examine the witnesses against the defendant in order to test whether they are telling the truth. We are often able to use cross examination to establish inconsistencies in a witness' testimony in order to show that the witness is making the story up. We may also be able to cross examine the witness or introduce other evidence to show that the witness has a motive to fabricate such as jealousy, anger, or financial reasons.
- Sufficiency of the Evidence - The prosecution always bears the burden of proving each charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors routinely overcharge criminal defendants by charging them with more serious offenses than the prosecutor can actually prove. Thus, we may be able to defend against Aggravated Assault charges by showing that the defendant did not cause or attempt to cause serious bodily injury to the complainant.
- Pre-Trial Motions - If any of the evidence was obtained illegally, then we may be able to file pre-trial motions to have that evidence excluded or suppressed. For example, if the police interrogated the defendant without Miranda warnings, it may be possible to have the resulting statements excluded from evidence.
The exact defense in any case will always be specific to the case. In some cases, there may be defense evidence such as video or photographs or eyewitnesses who will testify to a different version of events. Therefore, it is important that you retain a criminal defense attorney who has the experience and skill to fully investigate your case and prepare the best possible defense.
We Can Help With Domestic Violence Allegations
Domestic abuse allegations are serious. They can lead to criminal conviction, jail time, and even the loss of your home. Given the serious consequences of a conviction or final PFA Order, it is critical that you hire experienced criminal defense counsel who will fight for you if you are facing allegations of violence against a family member or romantic partner. Our experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers have extensive experience and proven track records of success in defending clients against these life-changing allegations. Call 267-225-2545 for a free strategy session today.