attorney_benowits
DAVID CLARK
Criminal Defense Attorney

Civil and Criminal Actions in Bucks County Domestic Violence Cases

In the Court of Common Pleas, throughout Bucks County as well as the entire Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, individuals can face both civil and criminal penalties when dealing with contempt and/or violations of stay away orders. A civil contempt hearing often can lead to criminal charges, should a civil stay away order be violated. It is essential that someone speaks with a knowledgeable domestic violence lawyer if they are facing any civil and criminal actions in Bucks County domestic violence cases.

Civil vs Criminal Actions

When an individual in a domestic matter which is also known as a civil matter, is instructed not to have contact with the other party or not to have negative contact, and if such negative contact occurs, the matter is then transferred to the criminal courts and the district attorney’s office begins the prosecution of that individual. Thus, an individual who once faced civil penalties now faces criminal charges and the difference between the two involves the penalties involved.

In criminal matters, a record can be had by the individual violating the order and the individual violating the order is subject to penalties, fines and costs and a long period of incarceration.

Thereby, when a civil order is violated and the terms of a stay away come into play in a domestic violence matter, the matter is often transferred to the criminal courts.

At the criminal courts level, upon conviction of a particular contempt order or new charge, an individual can face long periods of incarceration and thousands of dollars in fines and costs.

Civil Domestic Violence Action Circumstances

In a civil domestic violence action, an accuser is requesting the court, while a civil action continues, that child support, child custody, and divorce matterscontinue through the courts. Because of the possible risk of violence, an individual would be requesting that the parties not have negative contact and in some cases any non-legal contact while the matter is pending. This often comes into play when dealing with children in domestic civil matters. It is the dropping off and caring for children, that is court ordered.

Under those circumstances, a court sees that an individual is at risk for harm or children are at risk for harm and they place whatever conditions the court feels is necessary to protect those parties from harm. In such civil matters, a civil order is prepared in the Court of Common Pleas and signed an order by a Court of Common Pleas judge and becomes law. Should an individual violate those terms on either side, the matter can be transferred over to the criminal courts or prosecution.

Dropping Charges

In civil court matters and civil court matters alone, parties to an action can always petition the court to withdraw charges and/or allegations during domestic violence civil proceedings. That is, if the matter has not gone before a criminal court where an automatic stay away order comes into play, then parties in a civil action- a plaintiff against a civil defendant, for instance - can agree, through the use of counsel, that certain conditions be lifted and that the courts abide by those lifting up conditions or withdrawals in order to promote a better relationship between the parties.

Additionally, should parties in a civil action only make amends in attempting to do things such as counseling and/or childcare classes together, they may agree that certain conditions be lifted so the parties can spend some time together and work on mending the relationship. However, should the matter ever become a criminal matter, the parties do not have the ability to withdraw charges against one another because the parties did not bring the charges.

The charges are brought by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through a particular prosecutor’s office and in that case, the prosecutor is the only one that has control on deciding which charges can be withdrawn and which charges they will be proceeding upon.

What an Accuser is Asking For

In a criminal domestic violence action, an accuser can be asking for protection from a particular defendant while certain proceedings occur. In most scenarios involving criminal cases or domestic violence cases, one individual as part of the relationship has caused physical harm to another individual as part of that relationship and as a result, the individual who has allegedly been harmed has sought help from the district attorney’s office. through the district attorney’s office, charges have been placed against the other individual in the relationship. Under those circumstances, an accused has a problem, should the accused to violate terms of a stay away order.

The most common cases of domestic violence where physical injuries have occurred, stay away orders between the parties are automatic. Should an accused then be found to have violated and/or threatened, harmed, contacted the other party or had other individuals do so whether through personal contact, phone contact, texting or social media and the court finds, the contempt has been made out that the individual faces a long period of incarceration and thousands of dollars of fines and costs.