Protection from Abuse
Protection From Abuse
In Pennsylvania, domestic violence includes crimes such as rape and less obvious acts such as “engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts against another person . . . which places the person in a reasonable fear of bodily injury.”
An individual may petition the court to enter an order for Protection from Abuse. Temporary PFA orders can be issued even when the defendant is not present in court. In essence, when it comes to domestic violence, a defendant can suffer certain consequences before a hearing on the matter.
When a temporary PFA order is issued, it can result in two significant consequences, though there may be other penalties or restrictions imposed:
- It can restrict a defendant's contact with the victim and their children; and
- It can require the defendant to leave the family home.
A hearing date will be scheduled upon the issuance of a temporary PFA order. At the time of the hearing, a final PFA order may be entered. Whether you are a victim of domestic violence or defendant in a PFA matter, it is critical that you seek the advice and representation of an attorney prior to a final PFA hearing.
When a person has been accused of domestic violence, there are several different ways their accuser may be able to prove their case.
Physical evidence tends to carry a lot of weight in proving domestic violence. Physical evidence can include photographs and videotaped evidence of the injuries. Doctor reports, items used in an assault (e.g., a weapon), and damaged property are also considered physical evidence.
If anyone else saw domestic violence take place, their testimony may be used to prove that the domestic violence occurred. This includes any police officers that may have responded to an emergency call to the place the domestic violence occurred. It can also include neighbors, co-workers, friends, family, and others.
Experts on domestic violence can provide evidence in several different ways. They may produce reports after examining the survivor(s) and analyzing the case. They can also help educate the judge on domestic violence and how it has occurred and impacted the current case.
Domestic Violence Laws
Domestic violence describes a range of harm committed in the context of a domestic relationship, usually between spouses, intimate partners, or relatives. Examples of physical acts that can arise from domestic violence include punching, hitting, slapping, or shoving. However, it could extend to other patterns of abusive behavior, like stalking, harassing, threats of violence, and sexual abuse.
While domestic violence offenses are usually prosecuted at the state level, federal domestic violence legislation also exists. In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This Act and subsequent additions to the Act acknowledge domestic violence as a national crime and provide assistance to overburdened state and local criminal justice systems.
The following are federal crimes under VAWA if they are committed within the maritime or territorial lands of the United States or if the offender crosses state or foreign lines to:
- commit or attempt to commit a crime of violence against an intimate partner (18 U.S.C. Section 2261)
- stalk or harass or to stalk or harass by mail or computer (18 U.S.C. Section 2261A)
- violate a qualifying Protection Order (18 U.S.C. Section 2262)
Pursuant to VAWA, a person subject to a PFA order or convicted of a domestic violence offense is also prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under federal law.
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