Can a Domestic Violence Charge Be Dropped?

Can a Domestic Violence Charge Be Dropped?

It can be stressful to be charged with domestic violence. In some cases, domestic violence charges arise out of misunderstandings, and the alleged victims might want the charges to be dropped. Even if the alleged victim in your case doesn’t want to press charges or wants the charges to be dismissed, the decision about how to handle your charges in Pennsylvania is the prosecutor’s decision to make and does not depend on the wishes of the alleged victim. When someone reports an act of domestic violence to the police, the accuser does not decide whether to press charges. Instead, the accuser is a witness to the alleged crime. After an accuser calls the police and makes a report, the officers can arrest the defendant. The prosecutor is who will decide whether sufficient evidence exists to charge the accused person with a crime or whether the charges should be dismissed. If the prosecutor believes that a crime has occurred, he or she is likely to continue prosecuting the defendant regardless of whether the alleged victim asks for the charges to be dropped. If you have been charged with an act of domestic violence, DiCindio Law can talk to you about your legal options and your defense.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence includes acts that are attempted, threatened, or committed by a defendant against people with whom he or she has close personal relationships. This can include spouses, ex-spouses, sexual partners, and others. Physical contact does not have to occur for an act to be considered to be domestic violence. Threats and intimidation can result in charges.

Situations that can lead to domestic violence charges

Domestic violence charges are commonly filed after a power struggle or an argument has occurred. Some of the most common situations that can lead to domestic violence charges include alcohol and drug use, child custody and divorce proceedings, and misunderstandings.

People who drink alcohol or use drugs may act in ways that they normally wouldn’t because of their impairment. When drugs or alcohol are involved in domestic violence charges, drug and alcohol treatment and counseling might be more effective than jail.

When people are involved in child custody disputes and divorces, the situations can become very emotional. Unfortunately, some people will make false domestic violence claims to try to gain an upper hand in their family court proceedings. In these situations, the false claims can backfire on them.

In some cases, misunderstandings can result in the misinterpretation of actions or behaviors as threatening even if they were not.

The victim’s testimony

Some domestic violence cases largely rest on the testimony of the victim and have little other evidence to support the charges. In these types of cases, the prosecutors might have to drop the charges when the victims refuse to help the prosecution or to testify. If the victim instead decides to testify for the defendant, the prosecutor is likely to lose his or her case. In that situation, the prosecutor might dismiss the charges because of a lack of evidence. However, a prosecutor can compel a victim to testify under subpoena and use his or her previous statements to show that the victim’s story has changed.

Trying to refute the evidence

In some cases, domestic violence charges might result after third parties call the police after witnessing arguments, outbursts, or loud fights.. The alleged victims might have to explain what happened during and leading up to the argument or outburst. If physical injuries were involved, explanations about how those happened other than the incidents might be necessary.

Other defenses

Some of the other defenses to domestic violence charges that might be available include the following:

  • Lack of witnesses or evidence
  • Self-defense
  • Mistaken identity
  • Inconsistent victim statements
  • Unlawfully obtained evidence

Your attorney at DiCindio Law can analyze what happened and explain the defenses that might be available to you.

Get help from DiCindio Law

While the alleged victim in your case does not have the power to drop the charges against you, the prosecutor might decide to dismiss the charges if he or she believes that the case is unlikely to result in a conviction. Building a strong defense case provides you with the best chance of receiving a more favorable outcome for your case. Contact DiCindio Law to schedule a consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535.

Can An Aggravated Assault Charged Be Expunged?

Being arrested and charged for a crime can negatively impact your future more than you think, effecting your personal life and limiting your opportunities professionally. Even in cases where charges were ultimately dismissed, your public record will still reflect the charges that you were arrested for.

The Pennsylvania expungement law was recently expanded in 2018 to include some violent offenses, such as aggravated assault. If you have been convicted of aggravated assault, you may be considering getting your criminal record expunged. Removing an aggravated assault criminal charge from your public record is a difficult process, but it can be done if you meet the qualifications. Find out the details of how you can seek removal of your criminal record from the public database.

What is aggravated assault?

Aggravated assault is a felony charge that is not taken lightly in the Pennsylvania justice system. Here are some examples of aggravated assault:

  • Striking or the threat of striking a person with a weapon or object
  • Using a firearm to shoot someone or threatening to shoot or kill someone while pointing a gun at them
  • Committing assault with the intent to commit another felony crime
  • Committing assault that results in serious physical injury to someone else
  • Committing assault against a member of a protected class

Effects of a criminal record

When a person is charged with a crime, they may face jail time and court fees, as well as specific conditions such as probation or parole. The short-term effects are burdensome, but the long-term implications can be just as devastating. A permanent criminal record is filed with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as well as the Pennsylvania State Police, local law enforcement, the court, and government agencies. The criminal record contains details pertaining to arrest, conviction, and any supervision details. This means that future employers are able to pull up your criminal record in a background check and see that you have a conviction for aggravated assault. This could have a big impact on current or future employment.

How to get your criminal record expunged

Because of the negative impact a criminal record can have on your life, it is important to consider getting your criminal record expunged wherever possible. Here are the steps that you need to take in the expungement process.

Step 1 – Eligibility

The very first step determines whether you will be eligible to have your record expunged. In Pennsylvania, you are eligible if you were convicted of a crime, and meet any one of the following:

  • You are at least 70 years old and have had a clear record for 10 years you were released from supervision
  • You have a summary offense, and were free of arrest or conviction for 5 years following the date of conviction
  • No disposition was ever received or recorded by the repository within 18 months (proof must be submitted)
  • The court has ordered expungement
  • You are at least 21 years of age and have been convicted of a violation under Section 6308 (relating to the illegal transport or sale of alcohol) and have satisfied all the terms of sentencing, then the court will issue an order to expunge your record.
  • A record can be expunged 3 years after the individual has been deceased.

Step 2 – Obtaining a background check

After determining whether you are eligible to have your record expunged, you must obtain a background check from the Pennsylvania State Police. It takes about 2-4 weeks to receive the results. This background check must be included with the petition that is filed with the court. Without the background check, the clerk of the court may rule the petition as deficient.

Step 3 – Filing the necessary filings with the Court

Filing the necessary paperwork with the court in Pennsylvania will consist of the petition, a proposed Order, a verification form, a certificate of service, a background check, along with any other additional documentation that you feel is necessary. In the case of expungement for an aggravated assault, the defendant must fill out the 790 petition form (which is specific to misdemeanors and felonies). Additionally, a filing fee of $147.00 must accompany the petition.

Step 4 – Service on the District Attorney’s Office

After filing the petition with the court, you must serve the paperwork on the District Attorney’s Office that initially prosecuted the case. In certain counties, the clerk of the court will serve the petition on your behalf, but this should be confirmed prior to filing.

Step 5 – Response from the District Attorney’s Office

After the petition and accompanying documents is served upon the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Office, they will have the chance to decide whether or not they will consent or object to the request for expungement. Generally, the District Attorney’s Offices in Pennsylvania has 30 days from the date of service to make their decision.

If the District Attorney’s Office reaches a decision where they object, a contested hearing will have to be held where testimony, evidence, and defense must be presented as to why the Judge should grant the order of expungement.

Step 6 – Distributing the Order of Expungement

The Order for expungment can be granted by the judge without the need for hearing if the District Attorney’s office consents. Regardless how the order was granted, the next step is for the expungement orders to be forwarded to all necessary law enforcement, court, and government agencies.

The entire expungement process typically takes 4 – 6 months under most circumstances. This means that your criminal record should be cleared by all law enforcement, court, and government agencies within the 4 – 6 month time frame.

Importance of an Attorney

The expungement process requires that you file documents with the court, follow strict procedural rules and present evidence to support the expungement. In order to best represent yourself, you need the experience of a seasoned expungement lawyer. The attorneys at DiCindio Law have significant experience trying expungement cases in Pennsylvania. Contact the experience attorneys at DiCindio Law today!

Possessing Instruments of Crimes

When an object or weapon is involved in the commission of a criminal offense, a common charge that will be levied against an individual is that of “Possessing Instruments of Crimes.” This charge is found in title 18 section 907 of the Pennsylvania Criminal Code.

What must be evaluated in these cases is whether or not the person intended to employ any instrument of crime in a criminal manner. Importantly, there need not be what is generally termed as a “weapon” in order to be found guilty of this offense. Unlike what most may generally think – a knife or a gun, an instrument of crime is defined as anything that fits with in the following definitions. First, anything specifically made or specifically adapted for criminal use. Second, anything used for criminal purposes and possessed by the actor under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for lawful uses that it may have.  Finally, anything commonly used for criminal purposes and possessed by the actor under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for lawful uses it may have.

An example of a situation where a normal everyday object may be viewed as an instrument of crime would be when a crowbar is used to break into somebody’s home or vehicle. That is not the lawful and intended purpose of a crowbar therefore it would fit under the definition of this crime.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or are the subject of a case where Possession of an Instrument of Crime is charged contact Mike DiCindio, Esq. and DiCindio Law, LLC directly today.

 

  • 907.  Possessing instruments of crime.

(a)  Criminal instruments generally.–A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he possesses any instrument of crime with intent to employ it criminally.

(b)  Possession of weapon.–A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he possesses a firearm or other weapon concealed upon his person with intent to employ it criminally.

(c)  Unlawful body armor.–A person commits a felony of the third degree if in the course of the commission of a felony or in the attempt to commit a felony he uses or wears body armor or has in his control, custody or possession any body armor.

(d)  Definitions.–As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection:

“Body armor.”  Any protective covering for the body, or parts thereof, made of any polyaramid fiber or any resin-treated glass fiber cloth or any material or combination of materials made or designed to prevent, resist, deflect or deter the penetration thereof by ammunition, knife, cutting or piercing instrument or any other weapon.

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“Instrument of crime.”  Any of the following:

(1)  Anything specially made or specially adapted for criminal use.

(2)  Anything used for criminal purposes and possessed by the actor under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for lawful uses it may have.

“Weapon.”  Anything readily capable of lethal use and possessed under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for lawful uses which it may have. The term includes a firearm which is not loaded or lacks a clip or other component to render it immediately operable, and components which can readily be assembled into a weapon.


The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant.  The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments.  These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances.  It is intended solely for informational purposes.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale

Self-Defense in Pennsylvania

Self-Defense in Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania law when a crime of violence has been alleged a criminal defense attorney must evaluate the circumstances and determine whether or not self-defense would be an available principle of justification and defense in the criminal case. Whether it be a prosecution of simple assault, harassment, aggravated assault, or even a murder or criminal homicide case, self-defense must be evaluated before moving forward with a strategy for legal defense. Under Pennsylvania law the general principle of self-defense is that the use of force towards another is justifiable if the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of force by another person on the pres

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ent occasion. Still, as with any criminal justification defense there are limits to self-defense in Pennsylvania.

For example there is a limit on the level of force that may be reasonably used which becomes a factual determination for  the jury.  There are also limits on the use of deadly force and when it can be used in a justifiable manner. Finally, there are numerous intricate scenarios where the self-defense or use of force in self-protection statute differentiates between the location of the incident.  For example, different rules may apply if someone is acting in self-defense in their home rather than in public.

Putting forth a self-defense justification defense in Pennsylvania is incredibly involved at times and usually based upon the specific circumstances of a given scenario.

If you or a loved one needs representation on any criminal matter – contact Mike DiCindio, Esq. directly.

  • § 505.  Use of force in self-protection.

(a)  Use of force justifiable for protection of the person.–The use of force upon or toward another person is justifiable when the actor believes that such force is immediately necessary for the purpose of protecting himself against the use of unlawful force by such other person on the present occasion.

(b)  Limitations on justifying necessity for use of force.–

(1)  The use of force is not justifiable under this section:

(i)  to resist an arrest which the actor knows is being made by a peace officer, although the arrest is unlawful; or

(ii)  to resist force used by the occupier or possessor of property or by another person on his behalf, where the actor knows that the person using the force is doing so under a claim of right to protect the property, except that this limitation shall not apply if:

(A)  the actor is a public officer acting in the performance of his duties or a person lawfully assisting him therein or a person making or assisting in a lawful arrest;

(B)  the actor has been unlawfully dispossessed of the property and is making a reentry or recaption justified by section 507 of this title (relating to use of force for the protection of property); or

(C)  the actor believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death or serious bodily injury.

(2)  The use of deadly force is not justifiable under this section unless the actor believes that such force is necessary to protect himself against death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping or sexual intercourse compelled by force or threat; nor is it justifiable if:

(i)  the actor, with the intent of causing death or serious bodily injury, provoked the use of force against himself in the same encounter; or

(ii)  the actor knows that he can avoid the necessity of using such force with complete safety by retreating, except the actor is not obliged to retreat from his dwelling or place of work, unless he was the initial aggressor or is assailed in his place of work by another person whose place of work the actor knows it to be.


The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant.  The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments.  These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances.  It is intended solely for informational purposes.

Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer and personal injury attorney who represents individuals accused of crimes or injured by the negligence of others throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale