What Happens When a Domestic Violence Victim Doesn’t Want to Press Charges in Pennsylvania?

You might assume that you do not need to worry about a criminal conviction if a domestic violence victim does not want to press charges. However, that is not always the case. Even without a domestic violence victim’s cooperation, you could be convicted of domestic violence charges in Pennsylvania.

Can a Victim of Domestic Violence Refuse to Press Charges?

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania brings domestic violence charges. The District Attorney’s office in the county of the arrest prosecutes the charges. The victim has no authority to “drop charges” against an alleged abuser. 

Generally, most domestic violence cases begin when a family or household member calls the police. Law enforcement officers can arrest a person for suspected domestic violence under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. §2711

A police officer does not need to witness an act of domestic violence, but they do need a reasonable belief that domestic violence occurred. For example, if the victim has visible injuries or there is a witness to the alleged domestic violence, the police officer likely has enough corroborative evidence to arrest the aggressor. 

In many cases, the alleged victim calls the police for help. After the police officers arrive, the victim may change their mind. However, the victim has no choice whether the police officers arrest the alleged abuser.

What Happens if the Victim Refuses to Testify?

A witness’s role in a domestic violence case can be vital. The prosecutor generally has the victim testify at the criminal trial for the alleged abuser. 

If a victim refuses to testify, it does not mean that the prosecutor drops the domestic violence charges. The prosecutor may have sufficient evidence to proceed to trial without the victim’s testimony.

The prosecutor may ask the judge to order the victim to testify. If the victim refuses to testify, they may be held in contempt of court. Another option might be to impeach the victim with statements they made to police officers if they try to change their testimony in court.

Victims of Domestic Violence Can Drop a Protection Order

The court issues protection from abuse (PFA) orders lasting up to three years. Unlike criminal charges filed by the state, a protection order is issued at the request of a victim of domestic violence. 

Protection orders can significantly interfere with the alleged perpetrator’s life. For example, the order generally prohibits you from contacting or going near the victim. However, the court could also order you to move out of a home shared with the victim, take away your gun rights, and require you to pay continuing financial support to the victim.

A protection order is a civil matter as opposed to a criminal matter. Therefore, the victim can withdraw their request for a protection order at any time.

However, if an individual requests that the court withdraws a protection order, the judge will review the matter. The judge wants to ensure that the alleged abuser or another party is not threatening the victim. If the judge finds that the victim is requesting to withdraw the protection order because they are under duress, the judge may deny the request. 

What Are the Penalties for Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania?

Domestic violence charges are serious criminal offenses. The penalties for domestic violence depend on your criminal history and the underlying criminal offense.

Law enforcement officers arrest individuals for domestic violence charges for numerous offenses to a family member or household member, including:

  • Any sex crime, including sexual assault and rape
  • Simple assault
  • Stalking
  • Aggravated assault
  • Reckless endangerment
  • False imprisonment
  • Physical or sexual abuse of a minor
  • Recklessly, intentionally, or knowingly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury
  • Causing the person to be in reasonable fear of imminent bodily injury

Domestic violence may be charged as felonies or misdemeanors

The sentencing guidelines for domestic violence include:

  • First-degree summary offense – up to 90 days in jail and a $250 fine
  • Third-degree misdemeanor – 90 days in jail and up to $5,000 in fines
  • Second-degree misdemeanor – two years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines
  • First-degree misdemeanor – five years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines
  • Third-degree felony – seven years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines
  • Second-degree felony – ten years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines

If you are convicted of domestic violence, the judge may also order you to attend mandatory counseling and anger management classes. 

What Should I Do If I Am Facing Domestic Violence Charges in Pennsylvania?

Do not ignore the charges. Instead, contact a West Chester domestic violence defense lawyer immediately. Do not talk to the police, the victim, or the victim’s family or friends. It is in your best interest not to discuss the criminal charges or the situation that led to accusations of domestic violence with anyone other than an experienced criminal defense lawyer in West Chester, PA.

Contact Our Domestic Violence Law Firm in West Chester, PA

If you are facing criminal charges and need legal help, contact the West Chester, PA domestic violence lawyers at DiCindioLaw, LLC to schedule a free initial consultation.

DiCindio Law, LLC

29 S Walnut St
West Chester, PA 19382
(610) 430-3535