Domestic violence is a very serious criminal charge. In Pennsylvania, it can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the conduct of the alleged abuser and other factors, such as a person’s criminal record or history of domestic violence. In cases in Pennsylvania, courts will often issue protection when a family member or household member has threatened or committed abuse. These orders of protection vary in scope and length depending on the circumstances.

It’s important to work with an attorney who can protect your rights when you’re facing domestic violence charges. Below is a quick overview of some of the common defense strategies used in these cases.

Failure to meet the definition of domestic violence

A domestic violence complaint must actually meet the definition of domestic violence for the alleged abuser to be found guilty. There must be an act such as homicide, assault, kidnapping, false imprisonment, criminal sexual behavior, criminal mischief, harassment, stalking or criminal trespassing.

If the domestic violence accusations are based on conduct that does not meet these definitions, then the accused cannot be found guilty of domestic violence and the judge should dismiss the case.

Failure to meet jurisdictional requirements

Courts occasionally dismiss domestic violence cases that fail to meet jurisdictional requirements. The plaintiff and defendant must fall into one of the following categories for a case to be considered domestic violence:

  • Current or former spouses or household members
  • People who have or will have a child together
  • A dating couple

Additional defense options

Defendants may be able to prove that they were acting in self-defense if they faced reasonable fear of imminent harm. Or they may be able to prove that their conduct was a de minimis infraction, meaning that it was too minor or trivial to be considered criminal.

Get guidance on defending your rights when facing domestic violence charges from Matthew R. Zatko, Attorney at Law by contacting us online or calling 814-483-7075.