Is Verbal Abuse a Form of Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania?

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
February 19, 2021

Pennsylvania law enforcement takes accusations of domestic violence very seriously. While a domestic violence case often involves one person physically harming another, police evaluate various elements when called to intervene in a domestic dispute. If you’ve been arrested for false domestic violence charges that involve verbal or physical abuse, get in touch with an experienced Pennsylvania domestic abuse defense attorney immediately. It is essential to present a strong defense to these charges, as the consequences can be severe.

At Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C., our criminal defense attorneys can devise a thorough defense against these charges based on the unique circumstances surrounding your case. We are here to help you understand when Pennsylvania courts consider verbal abuse a form of domestic violence.

When Is Verbal Abuse a Form of Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania?

Domestic violence is an aggressive act toward an intimate partner, spouse, family member, or co-parent of a child. While it can take many forms, domestic violence often includes:

  • Hitting a family member
  • Committing an act of rape
  • Sexually assaulting a spouse or intimate partner
  • Stalking or harassing a spouse or intimate partner
  • Instilling fear in a spouse or family member, causing them to believe their life is in danger
  • Preventing a spouse or family member from being able to leave home or enjoy their freedom

Verbal abuse can become domestic violence when the underlying offense is terroristic threats. This occurs when someone threatens to act violently toward a victim to terrify and control them. For instance, promising to hit a spouse may be considered a terroristic threat.

If verbal abuse of a spouse or family member does not include violent threats of abuse or assault, then, the defendant’s remarks may not qualify as a criminal offense.

When Can Police Arrest Someone for Domestic Violence?

When confronted with a domestic violence situation, Pennsylvania law enforcement has the authority to arrest the “primary aggressor” without a warrant, nor do they need to witness the alleged offense. When intervening in a domestic violence dispute, police can arrest the aggressor if they have probable cause to believe that someone has been abused or have corroborated evidence to demonstrate the abuse.

Law enforcement may consider the site of recent physical injuries on a victim that the defendant probably inflicted as probable cause to make an arrest. In situations involving verbal abuse, law enforcement must rely on other evidence to corroborate the claim. For example, if the police saw the alleged abuser holding a weapon toward their spouse when they arrived or if furniture or various objects around the home are in disarray from what looks like a violent altercation, this can support a claim of verbal and physical abuse.

What Are Potential Consequences for Domestic Violence in Pennsylvania?

The criminal penalties for domestic violence in Pennsylvania vary significantly depending on the unique circumstances surrounding the case. The imposed penalties can include being ordered to attend counseling or anger management courses for a misdemeanor charge or jail time with hefty fines for a felony charge.

The penalties imposed will depend significantly on the gravity of abuse the victim suffered, along with the defendant’s pattern of behavior. If this is their first brush with the law for domestic violence charges, they will likely be sentenced with a lighter penalty than someone who has several domestic violence charges on their record.

It should be noted that other consequences may result from a domestic violence claim. Often, victims don’t want their abusers charged with a crime, but they still require protection from bodily harm. In that case, they can file for a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order, which requires the alleged abuser to cease all contact with the victim and to keep a certain distance away from the victim. This often leads to the alleged abuser moving out of the home they share with the victim.

Contact Experienced Montgomery County Criminal Defense Lawyers for a Free Consultation

Domestic violence is considered a serious criminal charge in Pennsylvania. If you’re facing these criminal charges or you need help getting protection from abuse, contact experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyers at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C.

For over 65 years, our firm has provided nationally recognized legal services to our clients in Montgomery County and throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. With every case we take on, we aim to protect the rights of the innocent and ensure the security and peace of mind of our clients. To schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable attorney experienced in domestic violence cases, complete a contact form or call 215-822-7575 today.

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
Pennsylvania Attorney's
February 19, 2021
Established in 1952 by Irwin S. Rubin, Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. boasts over 65 years of experience serving clients throughout Pennsylvania. Renowned for its commitment to ethical representation, the firm has garnered prestigious accolades, including being named the "Best Law Firm" for its outstanding legal defense work by U.S. News & World Report. Their team of seasoned attorneys, recognized as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars, brings unparalleled expertise to a wide range of legal matters, ensuring exceptional representation for individuals, families, businesses, and organizations.