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Domestic Violence Definitions

There are some important terms you should know to help you understand the domestic violence charges that have been filed against you. It is vital that you understand that domestic violence includes more than just your blood-related or marriage-related family.

  • Cohabit: Cohabiting is living with another person as if you are married and/or a family.
  • Harass: To harass someone is to engage in conduct against that other person that has no purpose and is uninvited. Examples include repeatedly calling or text messaging after being asked to stop, showing up at a person’s place of employment, arriving unannounced at a person’s home or refusing to leave after being asked, and repeatedly sending private messages on social media after being asked to refrain.
  • Protection from abuse order: A Protection from Abuse order is a permanent or temporary restraining order or protective order that has been issued by a judge that prohibits a person from requiring someone to perform certain specified acts and/or from performing certain specified acts themselves. For example, a person may be denied access to the family home or required to remain at a certain physical distance at all times. Issued in domestic violence cases. Good for up to three years. Violating one results in a charge of criminal contempt, which is punishable by $1,000 worth of fines and six months in jail.
  • Domestic abuse: Domestic abuse or domestic violence is defined as attempting to cause or actually causing one of the following to a household or family member: bodily injury; sexual assault, either with or without a weapon; sexual abuse; rape; child abuse, either knowingly or intentionally; stalking; or false imprisonment.
  • Household or family member:
    • Spouse
    • Cohabiters
    • Ex-spouse
    • Someone you have previously cohabited with
    • People related to you by either blood or marriage
    • Current or former sexual partners
    • People who have a biological child together

Domestic violence charges are filed when any of the below list of crimes are committed against one or more of the people listed above. Domestic violence charges are additional considerations to assault, aggravated assault, and battery. In Pennsylvania, police are required to arrest someone when they respond to a call, and someone says a violent act has been committed against them by a member of their household, regardless of whether the officer has witnessed the occurrence. Evidence such as bruises or other marks on one party is enough to make the cops arrest the other. The victim is not allowed to later drop the charges. The prosecutor will decide whether to press charges or not. Courts do not usually dismiss charges in these situations.

Crimes that are considered domestic abuse when performed against anyone defined as a household or family member:

  • Stalking
  • False imprisonment
  • Sex crimes
  • Sexual or physical abuse of anyone under the age of 18
  • Knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly causing or attempting to cause injury to someone’s body
  • Doing things that put a household or family member in fear of receiving a bodily injury

Pennsylvania has increased its efforts to fight domestic violence; therefore, your chances of being severely punished if convicted are much greater.

Additionally, victims often make false reports to the police, out of spite or other motivations.

There are defenses available to you; domestic violence and accompanying charges do not have to mean the end of life as you know it. It is important that you seek legal advice, and do not try to defend yourself against such charges.

If you have been arrested for domestic violence, you need the immediate assistance of an experienced Pittsburgh domestic violence criminal defense attorney to help you. The Logue Criminal Defense team has defended many domestic violence cases, often getting charges reduced. Logue Law Group serves the Pittsburgh, PA area, West Virginia, and Ohio. Call us today for an initial consultation, free of charge: 1-844-PITT-DUI or (412) 389-0805. Or, you may contact us online.

For more information on Domestic Violence definitions, see the Pennsylvania Code, Title 18, section 6102.

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