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Man Choked Girlfriend, Arrested For State College Domestic Violence

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A man was arrested recently and taken before a judge after allegedly assaulting his girlfriend by choking her and giving her a bloody nose. The man was charged with a misdemeanor offense of Simple Assault, in violation of 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2701, and a summary offense of Harassment, in violation of  18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2709. The State College assault charges now will proceed through the Centre County court system.  Because the assault involved a boyfriend and girlfriend, it is considered a "domestic violence" case.

Domestic Violence Cases Are Treated Differently by the Centre County District Attorney

In Pennsylvania, there is no express law for domestic violence related assaults. If I fight with a stranger or with my wife, I would generally be charged with Simple Assault. However, in Centre County, as is the case in many counties across Pennsylvania, the prosecution of the case will be treated differently. If a person has no prior criminal record, the normal recommended sentencing range for Simple Assault is probation up to 30 days in jail. If I were to fight with a drunk Penn State student outside a State College bar, I would probably be sentenced to probation, meaning no jail time. If I got into a fight with my wife, I would expect to be issued a plea offer that would require me to spend time in jail.

Federal Law, Domestic Violence, and Firearm Possession Prohibition

In addition to the disparity in the treatment of Centre County assault and domestic violence cases, the Federal government also imposes additional punishments to some domestic violence assault cases. As discussed above, a person convicted in a Centre County domestic violence case of misdemeanor Simple Assault will face a sentence that probably includes a period of incarceration, payment of fines and costs, completion of a batterer's intervention program, and the person also will incur additional collateral consequences because of the conviction. In this case, under Federal law at 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9), a person convicted of a domestic violence assault charge is subject to a lifetime prohibition of the possession of a firearm. In Centre County and Pennsylvania as a whole, there are many people that own and possess guns, be it for fun, sport, or hunting. People convicted of Simple Assault in Pennsylvania for a domestic violence incident are not permitted to own or possess guns for the remainder of their lives.

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