West Chester

Violent Crime Lawyer

Few circumstances are as intimidating as being accused of a violent crime like assault, child abuse, or homicide. These allegations are frightening, particularly when you consider that Pennsylvania harshly punishes violence. The penalties include long prison sentences and a life-long stigma of being labeled as a violent offender. Do not take these allegations lightly. Consult an aggressive and highly-skilled criminal defense attorney.

You should not assume violent charges will result in a conviction. There are ways to defend yourself. By working with a violent crime defense lawyer, you improve your chance of having the charges reduced, dropped, or dismissed. You also give yourself a fighting chance of winning an acquittal at trial or mitigating the consequences of a potential conviction.

If a prosecutor has charged you with a violent crime in West Chester, Honey Brook, Phoenixville, Kennett Square, Oxford, Wayne, Coatesville, Exton, or anywhere in Chester County, contact attorney Michael J. Skinner. As a former Chester County prosecutor and veteran defense attorney, he has a deep insight into all aspects of violent crime defense in Pennsylvania. Call Skinner Law Firm at (610) 436-1410 or contact us online to request a free and confidential consultation.

Pennsylvania Violent Crimes

Murder

(18 PA Cons Stat §2501 & §2502)
Pennsylvania defines criminal homicide as intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently causing another person’s death. This offense is classified as either murder, voluntary manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter.

A prosecutor will charge you with murder in the first degree if you allegedly committed an intentional killing. Murder in the second degree constitutes a killing that occurred when you were engaged in a felony offense. Murder in the third degree is a first-degree felony, and encompasses all other types of criminal homicide.

Manslaughter

(18 PA Cons Stat §2503 & §2504)
A prosecutor can charge you with a first-degree felony for voluntary manslaughter for allegedly killing someone without lawful justification. At the time, you must have been acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation.

A prosecutor may charge you with a first-degree misdemeanor for involuntary manslaughter if you while performing a lawful or unlawful act recklessly, cause another person’s death. However, if the victim was under 12 years old and in your care, then a prosecutor will charge you with a second-degree felony.

Homicide by Vehicle

(75 PA Cons Stat §3732)
A prosecutor can charge you with a third-degree felony if you recklessly or with gross negligence drive a vehicle and cause another person’s death.

Simple Assault

(18 PA Cons Stat §2701)
A prosecutor can charge you with a misdemeanor offense if you:

  • Intentionally or recklessly cause another person injury or try to;
  • Negligently cause another person bodily injury with a deadly weapon;
  • Try to place another person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury by physical menace; or
  • Conceal a hypodermic needle on your person and intentionally use it against a law enforcement officer or an employee of a correctional institute, detention facility, or mental hospital during a search or arrest.

Typically, a prosecutor will charge you with a second-degree misdemeanor. However, if you were involved in a fight with someone who agreed to the conduct, a prosecutor will charge you with a third-degree misdemeanor.

Aggravated Assault

(18 PA Cons Stat §2702)
Aggravated assault covers more serious violent behavior or attempts at violence than simple assault. A prosecutor can charge you with a first- or second-degree felony if you cause or attempt to cause someone serious bodily injury, cause someone ham with a deadly weapon, or assault certain professionals, such as teachers, police officers, firefighters, emergency responders, district attorneys, public defenders, government officials, elected officials, etc.

Assault on Law Enforcement

(18 PA Cons Stat §2702.1)
A prosecutor will charge you with a first-degree felony if you try to cause or intentionally or knowingly cause a law enforcement officer bodily harm by discharging a firearm. For a prosecutor to obtain a conviction, they must prove the officer was performing their duties, and you knew they were an officer.

Aggravated Assault by a Vehicle—DUI

(75 PA Cons Stat §3735.1)
A prosecutor can charge you with a second-degree felony if you negligently cause another person serious bodily injury by driving while intoxicated. If at the time of the DUI accident, your driver’s license had been suspended or revoked, you face an additional two years of incarceration.

Reckless Endangerment

(18 PA Cons Stat §2705)
A prosecutor can charge you with a second-degree misdemeanor if you recklessly engage in conduct that places or may place another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury.

Harassment

(18 PA Cons Stat §2709)
You can be charged with a summary offense or misdemeanor if you engage in conduct with the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person. Unlawful conduct can include hitting, kicking, or shoving another person or threatening to harm them; following another person in or around public places; sending lewd or obscene messages; repeatedly communicating in an anonymous manner or at inconvenient hours.

Harassment also includes cyber harassment of a minor. This means engaging in electronic communications or publishing content on social medial meant to make disparaging comments about the child’s physical characteristics, sexuality, sexual activity, or mental or physical health or to threaten harm.

Stalking

(18 PA Cons Stat §2709.1)
A first offense of stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor. Stalking includes engaging in a course of conduct, such as following another person or repeatedly communicating with them, under circumstances that demonstrate your intent to place the victim in fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress.

Strangulation

(18 PA Cons Stat §2718)
Strangulation is knowingly or intentionally impeding a person’s breathing or blood circulation by applying pressure to the throat or neck or blocking the person’s nose and mouth. A prosecutor could charge you with a second-degree misdemeanor for strangulation or a second-degree felony if the victim were a family member, household member, or someone dependent on your care.

A prosecutor can charge you with a first-degree felony for strangulation if, at the time of the offense, you were under an active protection from abuse order or similar court order that included the victim.

Kidnapping

(18 PA Cons Stat §2901)
A prosecutor can charge you with kidnapping if you unlawfully remove a person a substantial distance from the place they were found or confine a person for a substantial period in isolation, and you intended to:

  • Hold the person for ransom or as a hostage;
  • Facilitate a felony or flight;
  • Inflict bodily injury or terrorize the victim or another person; or
  • Interfere with government performance or a political function.

Kidnapping is a first-degree felony.

Robbery

(18 PA Cons Stat §3701)
Robbery entails committing theft and removing the property from a person by force; causing someone serious bodily injury; threatening harm; threatening a serious felony, or taking money from a financial institution by making demands of an employee. Depending on the facts, a prosecutor may charge you with a first- or second-degree felony.

Endangering the Welfare of a Child

(18 PA Cons Stat §4304)
A prosecutor can charge you with a misdemeanor or felony if you, as a parent, guardian, or other adult in charge of taking care of a minor, knowingly violate the duty of care, protection, or support and endanger the child’s welfare. This offense would be a felony if you created a substantial risk of harm or death.

Domestic Violence

(23 PA Cons Stat §6102)
Pennsylvania does not have one distinct domestic violence statute. Instead, certain violent crimes committed against people with particular relationships constitute domestic violence and can be more harshly punished.

Pennsylvania defines “abuse” as one of the following acts between family or household members, sexual or intimate partners, or individuals who share parenthood:

  • Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily harm, serious bodily injury, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, stator sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, or incest;
  • Placing another in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
  • False imprisonment;
  • Physically or sexually abusing a minor child; or
  • Harassment and stalking.

Child Abuse

(23 PA Cons Stat §6303(b.1))
In Pennsylvania, child abuse is defined as intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing:

  • A child bodily injury;
  • Medical symptoms, which result in potentially harmful medical evaluations or treatment;
  • Serious mental injury to a child;
  • Sexual abuse or exploitation of a child;
  • A reasonable likelihood of bodily injury, sexual abuse, or exploitation of a child;
  • Serious physical negligent;
  • Unreasonable restraint or confinement of a child;
  • Interference with a child’s breathing;
  • A child to be in a meth lab;
  • A child to be left with a registered sex offender or sexually violent predator;
  • A child’s death; or
  • Child trafficking.

Depending on the allegations against you, a prosecutor may charge you with a misdemeanor or felony based on the specific facts of your case. You also will be investigated by Child Welfare Services.

Protection from Abuse Orders

(23 PA Cons Stat §§6101—6122)
If another person can prove you harmed them or are likely to harm them, then they can obtain a protection from abuse order against you. You may know of these as a restraining order.

A prosecutor can charge you with indirect criminal contempt of court (23 PA Cons Stat §6114) if you violate a PFA order. If the judge finds you guilty of content, you can be punished with up to six months in jail or supervised probation and a fine between $300 and $1,000.

Resisting Arrest

(18 PA Cons Stat §5104)
A prosecutor can charge you with a second-degree misdemeanor if, with the intent to prevent a law enforcement officer from arresting you, you create a substantial risk of bodily injury for the officer or anyone else, or you act in a way that requires or justifies substantial force to overcome.

our awards & memberships

  • A professional non-profit dedicated to the improvement of the criminal defense bar, and to providing valuable information to the public about drunk driving laws. Members of the NCDD are considered the most experienced DUI defense attorneys in the United States and Canada.

  • The preeminent organization in the United States. NACDL serves as a leader in identifying and reforming flaws in the criminal justice system, and addressing systemic racism, and ensuring that the criminal defense bar is fully equipped to serve all accused persons at the highest level.

  • PACDL is the premier network of the best defense attorneys in PA with a mission to educate, advocate, and inspire by providing support for criminal defense lawyers, promoting effective competence, leveling the playing field, and protecting freedoms.

  • The Pennsylvania Bar Association promotes and protects the legal profession, the rights of Pennsylvania citizens and access to justice for all. Membership is open to any lawyer in good standing who is licensed by the Bar of Pennsylvania.

  • The American Bar Association is one of the world’s largest voluntary professional organizations, with over 400,000 members and more than 3,500 entities. Their mission is to serve its members, the legal profession, and the public by defending liberty and delivering justice as the national representative of the legal profession.

  • The CCBA promotes professionalism, inclusion, and collegiality within the Chester County legal profession, and enhances the quality of life of its members and the practice of law within the community.

  • The NORML Legal Committee (NLC) is composed of attorneys committed to the overall goals of NORML. NLC attorneys meet each year to discuss emerging legal issues related to defense of marijuana consumers and to support each other in the pursuit of justice.

  • The American Institute’s Criminal Law Division is an impartial third-party rating service recognizing the excellence of fellow practitioners. To help clients across the United States make educated decisions, we compile an exclusive list of the “10 Best” Attorneys for each State. Our “10 Best” is a prestigious honor extended only to those who have reached the top of their profession while doing so with the client’s satisfaction being of paramount importance.

  • The American Institute’s DUI/DWI Division recognizes the excellence of practitioners in the field of DUI/DWI defense. We compile an exclusive list of the “10 Best” Attorneys for each State for potential clients to utilize. We look for Attorneys that have achieved unparalleled success but most importantly have done so for the benefit of their client. Very few Attorneys can do so and our organization recognizes this significant achievement.

  • Attorney Michael Skinner has been consistently recognized as among the best lawyers in Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties. Attorneys are nominated via peer balloting, then vetted through our editorial process in various fields of practice.

  • The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state. Membership is extended only to the most qualified attorneys who demonstrate superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature and public profile. Each of our distinguished members possesses the knowledge, skill, experience, and success held by only the best and finest lawyers in America.

  • The Super Lawyers list recognizes no more than 5 percent of attorneys in each state. The Rising Stars further distinguishes no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys, and to be eligible, a Rising Stars candidate must be either 40 years old or younger, or in practice for 10 years or less who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Violent Crime Penalties in Pennsylvania

When a prosecutor charges you, or a grand jury indicts you for a violent crime, it is important to talk with a violent crime attorney about the level of the charge and the potential penalties.

Pennsylvania penal law dictates the minimum and maximum penalty for each offense:

First-Degree or Second-Degree Murder

Life imprisonment or death.

Third-Degree Murder

At least 10 years in prison.

First-Degree Felony

Up to 20 years in prison, fines up to $25,000.

Second-Degree Felony

Up to 10 years in prison, fines up to $25,000.

Third-Degree Felony/Ungraded Felony

Up to seven years in prison, fines up to $15,000.

First-Degree Misdemeanor

Up to five years in prison, fines up to $10,000.

Second-Degree Misdemeanor

Up to two years in prison, fines up to $5,000.

Third-Degree Misdemeanor/Ungraded Misdemeanor

Up to one year in prison, fines up to $2,000.

Summary Offense

Up to 90 days in jail, fines up to $300.

Other factors can also influence your potential sentence. Every crime has an Offense Gravity Score between one and eight, which tells a judge or jury how serious the law takes that offense.

Each crime also has a Prior Record Score or m, 1, or 2. “M” is one-half point. When you are convicted of an offense, the scores for each offense are added up.

Once the Offense Gravity Score and your Prior Record Score are determined, a pre-existing matrix is used to determine your presumptive sentence.

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Defending Against Violent Charges

After explaining your situation to a violent crime attorney at Skinner Law Firm, we will determine if there are any defenses or mitigating circumstances applicable to your case.

Some possible defenses to violent crimes include:

  • Self Defense – You have no duty to retreat from someone using force against you. You can use reasonable force to defend yourself if you reasonably believe the other person’s conduct was likely to cause you death or serious bodily injury.
  • Defense of Others – You can use force against another person if you reasonably believe it was necessary to defend someone from harm.
  • Defense of Property – You can defend your home, residence, or occupied vehicle against an unlawful intruder by use of reasonable force. You have no duty to retreat.
  • Lack of Intent – You may have caused another person harm purely by accident. We may seek to have the charges reduced or dropped because you lacked the necessary intent to commit the crime.
  • Mistake of Identity— The crime may have happened, but that does not mean you are the culprit. Police arrest the wrong people daily. We will do everything in our power to show the evidence does not indicate you are the perpetrator of the crime.
  • False Allegations— We may have evidence that the crime never really occurred and that you are facing false allegations from someone with an ulterior motive.
  • Insufficient Evidence—To be convicted, a prosecutor must provide enough evidence to establish you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We may argue there is not enough evidence to meet this burden.

Violent Crime Resources

West Chester Police Department
401 East Gay Street
West Chester, PA 19380
Phone: (610) 696-2700

Title 18: Crimes and Offenses – Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes contains a majority of the state’s laws regarding violent crimes. Other offenses can be found in different titles of the statutes.

An Abuse, Rape, and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection Pennsylvania’s chapter of AARDVARC provides resources and information for fighting and preventing family and relationship violence, sexual violence, and child abuse.

Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere STRYVE was created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prevent youth violence and provide resources and information.

Contact a West Chester Violent Crime Law Firm

A violent crime conviction is not guaranteed. You always have rights and options to consider, but you likely only have one chance to successfully defend yourself against a violent crime accusation. But early intervention from an experienced lawyer will be critical to your success.

With an extensive history of successfully defending people in violent crime cases, the Skinner Law Firm is ready to review the details, examine the evidence, and fight to protect you.

Contact us today anywhere in Chester County, PA at (610) 436-1410 for a free consultation about how your case can end favorably.