Families around the country are affected by domestic violence. It is a growing problem that can be a tragedy for all involved. The term domestic violence often is used to describe violence between spouses, but the issue is much greater than that.
The term can encompass a variety of abuse, and even children can be victims. In Pennsylvania, the law reflects the complexity of the label, and there are several different charges that can be associated with the crime.
There is not a charge in the criminal code for “domestic violence” or “domestic abuse” in Pennsylvania. Instead, it is defined as one of the many crimes of violence or endangerment between two or more people who share a specific type of relationship.
According to Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6102, to constitute as domestic abuse, the accused could be the victim’s husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend or life partner. If the two previously were involved as any of those, the term still could apply.
The abuse also could occur between the accused and someone he or she lived with, such as a mother, father, child, current sex partner or former sex partner. It can include other family members related by blood or marriage.
One of the most common charges associated with the abuse is domestic assault. Assault means intentionally causing harm or putting another person in fear of bodily harm. A simple assault charge in Pennsylvania could be a second-degree misdemeanor which carries up to two years in jail and a $2,000 fine.
However, if there was any serious bodily harm involved, the charges could escalate to a first-degree felony with aggravated assault, which carries up to 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
When parents are involved in domestic violence, whether or not the child was physically abused, he or she still could be a victim. Endangering the welfare of a child is a serious crime. Having a child involved in domestic abuse means the parent or guardian failed to protect him or her.
A single instance of endangering the welfare of a child is a first-degree misdemeanor, resulting in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. However, if there is a pattern of endangerment and it can be proven, the charges could be increased to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Stalking charges also could fall under domestic violence if the accused repeatedly follows or communicates with the victim in a way that causes stress or fear of bodily harm. The charge is a first-degree misdemeanor, resulting in up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Victims of domestic violence have options when it comes to defending themselves, including protective orders. Those accused of the crime also should contact a domestic violence attorney. The process can be heartbreaking for all involved, but a skilled attorney can help.