If someone calls the police about a domestic assault going on at his or her home, someone is going to jail. Increasingly, law enforcement officials take domestic violence assault calls extremely seriously, and will often arrest someone with little or no substantive investigation.
People who are charged with domestic violence come from all walks of life, and the circumstances surrounding each domestic assault case are different. Most people accused of domestic violence have never even been arrested before. Some just once, lost their temper and lashed out at a loved one during a difficult conflict. Some have issues with anger management that must be resolved. Others are flat out not guilty and have been falsely accused. Still others were simply defending themselves against their domestic partner, but the police saw it otherwise.
No matter the circumstances of the charges against you, those around you will often treat you like a pariah, as if you are already guilty. Having charges like these standing against you can feel like a black cloud you’re your whole life. You must respond proactively and defend yourself against these charges.
How can you best protect your rights, your family, your freedom, and your future?
First, exercise your right to remain silent and contact an attorney as soon as you possibly can, either in jail or directly after you are released. Remember, anything you say to the police about what happened can potentially be misconstrued and used against you in court. Be respectful but remember, you are not legally obliged to tell the police anything but your name. Being polite and respectful can also show that you are able to control angry impulses. It will help when it comes time to go to court.
If you have been taken into custody, do not sign a written statement of any kind and do not make any kind of agreement with the police. They do not have the authority to drop your case, anyway. The state prosecutor in Pennsylvania is the one who makes those decisions.
While in custody, you are allowed a phone call. If you do use a jail phone, remember that the police will likely be listening in on your phone call. Do not say anything that can even remotely be interpreted as problematic in your domestic assault defense. And do not call the person who is the alleged victim from jail. Again, this may be considered “stalking,” which will work against you in your case.
In domestic violence cases, generally, you will be in jail until you appear before the Pennsylvania court judge, who will set bond and give you certain conditions that you must follow for your release. Conditions may generally include not contacting the victim, not going home, except under law enforcement supervision, and not having any weapons.
In addition to the domestic assault charges, in some cases there may also be a restraining order or protective order of some kind put into place through the civil court. This means that you will need to stay away from the alleged victim, whether that is your spouse, your domestic partner, or someone else. Violation of this order will result in yet another criminal charge against you.
It is critical for your freedom and your future to adhere strictly to these conditions, no matter how upsetting and overwhelming your situation is. The court will not listen to the upset; they will see the fact that the agreement was broken and you will end up in jail.
Contact an attorney who is experienced in criminal law, domestic dispute cases, and defending against restraining orders.
Protection — If You Believe You Are Guilty
There are ways, depending on your unique situation and in some cases, where a jail sentence can be stayed or reduced, or an alternative sentencing program may be put in place. Upon completion of such an alternative resolution program, the case will be considered resolved.
Steps to Take After an Arrest for Domestic Assault — PA