THE CONSEQUENCES OF A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CHARGE
Jan. 16, 2022
Allegations of domestic violence are not taken lightly. Law enforcement and the courts typically err on the side of the accuser rather than the accused. Those accused can be even arrested without a warrant. It can seem that there is a presumption of guilt, not innocence, against the person accused of committing a domestic violence crime. Steps to protect the alleged victim are immediate while due process for the accused lags.
A 2020 national survey found that 8% of Americans said they have been falsely accused of domestic or child abuse. That 8% represents more than 20 million adults. Meanwhile, Philadelphia police reported that 35 of the 60 deaths that occurred in the first 10 months of 2021 were domestic in nature. These kinds of statistics spur authorities to react first and ask questions later.
A mere charge of domestic violence will result in an order of protection filed against alleged perpetrators, displacing them from their homes and cutting them off from loved ones. An accused will also have to surrender firearms to local authorities. A conviction for a domestic violence charge will have an even more negative impact on their lives.
I established The Law Offices of John Della Rocca more than 20 years ago to offer aggressive criminal defense for those accused of committing crimes in Philadelphia, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Bucks County, and Chester County, Pennsylvania, as well as communities throughout New Jersey. Everyone, regardless of guilt, deserves the best defense under the law, even those accused of domestic violence or abuse.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania law prosecutes certain crimes involving sexual acts, assault, stalking, and child abuse. When those acts occur between family or household members (currently or formerly residing together) or people who share children or an intimate relationship whether they have ever lived together, they constitute domestic violence:
Attempting to cause, with or without use of a weapon, bodily injury, rape, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, or incest;
Placing someone in reasonable fear of immediate serious bodily injury;
Falsely imprisoning someone;
Physically or sexually abusing a minor child; or,
Engaging in a course of conduct or committing repeated acts, including stalking, which places that person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.
What Possible Consequences Do I Face if Convicted of Domestic Violence?
A misdemeanor or felony criminal conviction for a domestic violence charge results in a range of potential consequences you will face for the rest of your life. With extremely few exceptions, a conviction can never be expunged from your record. Here are eight possible consequences of a conviction:
Incarceration: If your sentence is for two years of incarceration or less, you could spend that time in county jail. If it is more than two years, you will spend your sentence in state prison. A conviction for a first-degree misdemeanor can result in incarceration of up to five years.
Fines: Fines for misdemeanor convictions range from $2,500 to $10,000.
Probation: In lieu of jail time, you could be placed on probation. Conditions of probation vary; however, a violation of any condition usually results in revocation of probation and a return to jail or prison.
Treatment: You may be ordered to undergo treatment for anger management or sexual, alcohol, or drug addiction. You will be required to successfully complete any treatment program as a term of your punishment.
Restraining order: Orders of protection accompany most domestic violence arrests and conviction penalties. Your ability to have any contact whatsoever with certain people will be extremely limited or strictly prohibited. Violation of an order of protection is a separate crime for which you will be prosecuted.
Job loss: Even those charged with domestic violence and never convicted often lose their jobs. Most employers have no tolerance for employees who have been accused or convicted of acts of violence. Moreover, a criminal conviction will bar you from employment in certain fields, cause you to lose professional licensure or certification, and even prohibit you from attending college or obtaining a student loan.
Loss of gun rights: Those convicted of violent crimes in Pennsylvania lose their right to possess or own firearms. Even upon the accusation of alleged domestic violence, your firearms and any other type of weapons will be confiscated, regardless of whether the allegations accuse you of using them during the act.
Deportation: A domestic violence conviction will result in your loss of work or immigrant status if you are not a U.S. citizen. You will be deported.
What Defenses Might My Attorney Raise?
Depending on the circumstances of the events surrounding the allegations made against you, your criminal defense attorney may raise any number of defenses:
The allegations are false or retaliatory in nature.
There was no violence. For example, sex between you and your accuser was consensual.
There was a lack of intent to harm. For example, you were angry and slammed the door so hard that an object near your accuser fell from a high shelf and struck them. The injury was accidental, not intentional.
You were defending yourself or someone else against the physical aggression of your accuser.
You were provoked by your accuser, perhaps by their taunting and insulting of you until you lost your temper.
Your actions were the result of a moment of insanity, a mental health issue, or because you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time.
How The Law Offices of John Della Rocca Can Help
As a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for more than two decades, I have seen it all, especially when it comes to my clients charged with domestic violence offenses. I have represented every single one of them using my knowledge, experience, and tenacity to have conviction penalties minimized, charges lowered or dismissed, or to make sure clients got the help they needed to change behaviors.
If you are facing domestic violence charges, let The Law Offices of John Della Rocca help. Call now so we can begin working on your defense.