Spousal abuse is defined through Pennsylvania's Protection From Abuse Act. While this law specifically outlines the process for receiving protection from one's abuser, it also outlines what is and is not domestic abuse, and who can be considered a victim of domestic abuse instead of a victim of a crime. In particular what this law does is define a group of "household members" and outlaws any acts of violence from them towards another. These acts are prosecutable, and if the protected party obtains a PFA order, further criminal charges may be included.
Protection From Abuse For Spouses
The Protection From Abuse Act outlines specific "household members" that can be the sources of abuse. Household members include a person's current or former spouse, current or former intimate partner, immediate family, extended family, or someone with whom a child is shared.
The following actions can be considered forms of spousal abuse when coming from a household member:
- Any and all forms of sexual assault or misconduct
- Actions that cause physical and bodily harm
- False imprisonment
- Causing a person to fear immediate and serious bodily injury
- Engaging in conduct that repeatedly places a person under fear of bodily injury or harm
These actions, when directed at a spouse or child, are forms of domestic abuse. Although the law does take a firmer stance on child abuse, spousal abuse is also met with grave punishments when an offender is convicted. Spousal abuse is defined through the criminal statutes for the respective crimes committed against the spouse, with higher penalties for conviction.
Police Actions In Domestic Violence
There are certain circumstances in which officers of the law are given more power than normal if they believe that an incident of domestic violence has occurred. Police may arrest persons without a warrant if they have sufficient cause to believe that domestic violence is involved. They do no need to witness the actual crime itself occurring, but only the signs of abuse, such as a recent injury to the victim.
How Domestic Abuse Charges Can Affect Family Law
When a person is facing domestic abuse charges, matters of family law they are involved with will be affected as well. Spousal abuse charges can result in a Protection From Abuse order being filed, which can result in the denial of custody. On top of this, when a PFA order is issued, the defendant must surrender any firearms or other deadly weapons to the police. If a PFA has already been filed, then the abuser will face additional criminal charges of a PFA violation as well. Convictions on either of these can affect custody rights and even support agreements.
If you or a loved one is facing domestic violence charges or involved in other matters of Family Law, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.