Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Laws

Note: If you are in an emergency situation, call 911.

What is Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, domestic violence involves the use of intimidation, threats or actual physical violence against another member of the same family. In fact, there is no one single criminal charge in Pennsylvania law of domestic violence. There are a number of separate offenses which are linked by the fact that one member of a family or household is harming one or more of others.

Charges Often Associated With Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania

Domestic violence can be physical, sexual or financial. Certain types of harassment happen through different types of communication, including written, telephone, fax, e-mail, or voicemail.

Some examples of domestic violence-related charges are:

What Protections Are Available in Addition to Criminal Prosecution?

There are several remedies and legal protections available for victims of domestic violence in Pennsylvania. These may include:

  • Address Confidentiality Program (ACP): Victims can get a legal substitute address (usually a post office box) to use in place of their physical address; this address can be used whenever an address is required by public agencies. First class mail sent to the substitute address is forwarded to the victim's actual address.
  • Protective Orders: Victims of domestic violence can apply for a protection from abuse (PFA) order, a court order signed by a judge that offers protection to victims.
  • Civil lawsuit : The victim may file a civil lawsuit to recover losses and expenses such as medical bills or pain and suffering damages
  • Custody/child or spousal support orders : These may be modified to prevent any further incidence of violence between spouses, children, or other persons

The following table highlights the main provisions of the Pennsylvania's domestic violence laws (Protection from Abuse Act). See How to Stop Domestic Violence and Filing a Domestic Violence Lawsuit for more information.

Code Sections 23 Pa.C.S. ยง6101 et. seq
What Protections are Available?

Civil and criminal

Definition of Domestic Violence

Under the Protection From Abuse Act, abuse is defined as any of the following between family or household members:

1. Attempting to, or intentionally or recklessly causing
bodily injury, serious bodily injury, rape, spousal
sexual assault or involuntary deviate sexual
intercourse with or without a deadly weapon;

2. Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent
serious bodily injury;

3. False imprisonment;

4. Physically or sexually abusing minor children;
and/or

5. Knowingly engaging in a course of conduct or
repeatedly committing acts toward another
person, including following the person, under
circumstances which place the person in reasonable
fear of bodily injury.

Family/Household Member Relationship Requirement

You can file for protection if the person who has threatened or is trying to harm you is a current or former spouses, persons who live or have lived as spouses, parents and children, other persons related by blood or marriage, current or former intimate or sexual partners (including same sex relationships), or persons who have a child in common.

An emancipated minor can file for a protection order. If the abused person is a minor,
then a parent, adult household member or guardian ad litem can file on behalf of the child.

Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Lack of intent
  • No violence was committed
  • Insanity
  • Intoxication
  • Self-defense
  • Provocation
Penalties

May be a felony or misdemeanor depending on the abuser's conduct and the underlying charges. Factors such as prior offenses or history of domestic violence help determine the severity of the punishment. Sentence may also include a restraining or protective order.

Types of Protective Orders Available

Protection from Abuse Order (PFA)

 

Resources

Because domestic laws can sometimes get complicated, it may also be a good idea to consult an experienced domestic violence attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.