It seems much of what we read and hear about today is Domestic Violence (DV) allegations against professional athletes. The stories that have come out about professional athletes have been sad and disappointing. I want to examine for my CV Weekly readers what this charge is really about.

Clearly it is GOOD that we have laws that punish a spouse, cohabitant , fiancé or date, when they willfully touch or harm another. Willfully means you acted on purpose or willingly. You do not need to have intended to break the law or inflict injury. For instance after an argument a woman may try to leave the room and is restrained by the man. While trying to leave she is hurt. Technically that is enough to constitute a domestic violence.

However is it BAD that by law, the police have to automatically arrest the husband, typically, when the wife claims she was the victim of a DV battery? Usually it is a legitimate allegation however, whether the woman is telling the truth or not, the man is arrested. Is it bad that there is a statutory bail of $50,000 for each DV arrest, irrespective of the facts and “severity of the violence”? A husband shoving a woman back after she shoves him will usually get him in arrested. Is it bad that owners of teams are pressured to “bench” an athlete who allegedly hurt his significant other without any investigation and due process?

As an attorney I have seen the UGLY side of these charges when one spouse alleges DV to gain leverage for a future or pending divorce or child custody action. Is it UGLY that once an accusation of DV is made against a football player that he is now benched or suspended because of the public outcry? Of course when we see a tape of one player “punching out” his gal on an elevator, then that would be enough for me. However, most cases do not have video evidence.

Are we premature in punishing the alleged perpetrator without due process? If a lawyer in my offices is accused of DV should I “bench him” for a few weeks and not allow him to go to court or work on cases? The distinction is possibly that the athletes are people society looks up to and as such they should arguably set an example.

Clearly domestic violence by deified superstars is a disgrace and Dr. Joyce Brothers calls it The Super Jock Syndrome. Has the NFL become the sports league from hell? Since 2000, there have been 185 NFL players arrested for violent crimes. Some argue DV is a show of manliness, being powerful and tough and in control all the time. Many of the men who are charged with these crimes are the same guys who were eager to fight in high school. As an adult these same men have adopted the argument “the bitch made me do it” and that they are “keeping their women under control”. This of course is BS.

There are two Penal Code sections that address domestic violence (DV)- section 243 (e ) (1) and 273.5. Section 243 requires a willful and unlawful touching that is harmful or offensive and is committed against a current or former spouse, co-habitant, fiancé, date or parent. An example of this would be a man pushing his girlfriend during a fight; a man who is frustrated with his ex-wife and grabs her shirt causing it rip it or a woman who pulls the hair of her girlfriend after alleging she has cheated with her man. The most striking thing about the crime of DV is that you can be convicted of this offense even if you didn’t actually “hurt” another person. Shoving your spouse without any damage will do it.

Section 243 cases are misdemeanors and include a fine of up to $2000 plus penalty assessments and up to a year in jail. Charges under both sections carry a year of anger management classes plus probation of some kind. Legal defenses can be self-defense, not “willfully” inflicting force or violence and being falsely accused.

In Riverside County the police and DA arrest and file these charges as a 273.5 penal code violation which is a wobbler which means they can be filed as a felony or misdemeanor. Filing under this more serious code section pressures the defendant to accept a plea to a lesser charge such as the 243 or 242 (battery) or 415 disturbing the peace. A defendant might agree to do this in order to avoid the costs or consequences of a trial on the more serious 273.5 charge.

The next few months will shed some light on how far, as a society, we want to take DV charges. Should we adopt these pre-litigation penalties for all employees in our respective offices? Only time will tell.