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Tulsa, OK Criminal Defense & Family Law Blog

Friday, January 29, 2016

Charges against Picabo Street a Good Reminder that Domestic Violence is Not Just a Thing Between Intimate Partners

“Olympic gold-medalist skier Picabo Street has been charged with assault and domestic violence after allegedly pushing her 76-year-old father down two flights of stairs in December…”  I had to read that sentence a few times for it to fully sink in. Street, the downhill skier we all cheered to a gold medal during the 1998 Olympics, apparently may have a dark side none of us knew about or suspected was there. This sad situation is a good reminder that domestic violence is a widespread problem that encompasses far more than abuse directed at an intimate partner.

When the topic of domestic violence comes up, the image most people conjure up is one of a lovers spat that turned physical. However, domestic violence encompasses much more than that. Domestic violence can refer to an assault against any member of the family. Spouses, parents, children, romantic partners, step-family members, grandparents and grandchildren can all be the victims of domestic violence. Some of the most heart-wrenching abuse cases are not intimate partner cases, but cases where children or elderly relatives have been subjected to abuse.

No matter how close a relationship you have with someone not on the list above - for example, a neighbor, co-worker, or close friend - an assault against them is just an assault, not domestic violence. This is an important distinction because the penalties for domestic violence are much stricter than those for regular criminal assault

In a domestic violence situation, not only do you face jail time and a fine, you could also be barred from interacting with certain family members, lose your job, and have your right to own a gun stripped away.

Because these penalties are so severe, getting an experienced attorney involved early on in a domestic violence case is critical. But what sort of attorney should you look for? This is a criminal issue, which would suggest a criminal lawyer familiar with domestic violence cases would be best, but at the same time, these issues are very family centric, so having an attorney that practices family law is also helpful.

Even in the news reports on the Street case you see this dual criminal law/family law dynamic at play. Street’s lawyer emphasizes the case is a private, family matter that Street hopes to find an “amicable resolution” to, but in the same statement reiterates that Street is denying any wrongdoing. It’s a delicate balance.

A hearing for the Street case is set for February 16, so we will have to wait and see what happens in that case, but the prosecutor is probably going to be pretty lenient.  If I had to guess what will happen, I would say the charges will likely be dropped. News reports note that Street doesn’t have criminal record, and the statement from her lawyer about this being a private, family matter suggests the family wants to keep this more of a family law matter than a criminal law one.

Pushing these cases toward a family law resolution is not uncommon, even for non-celebrities. That is not because the court system doesn’t take these cases seriously, but because the families often want it that way. So, if you are facing a domestic violence charge, or have been a victim of abuse, hiring an attorney that is well-versed in both criminal and family law is the way to go.





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