There Are Risks With Going to a Jury Trial
Video Transcribed: So you’re looking down the barrel of a domestic violence criminal charge and you’re trying to fight to stay in your child’s life and get a reasonable custodial arrangement in Oklahoma. What do you need to know? My name is Brian L. Jackson. I am a father’s rights attorney in Tulsa.
We’re going to talk a little bit more about what I call the trifecta of crap, where you are facing a criminal charge, a protective order, and a divorce at the same time.
I want to zoom in specifically on the effect that a guilty plea or a no-contest plea to domestic violence can have on your right to see your kid.
Now, under Title 43, there is a specific rule that says the court must consider domestic violence when discerning the best interests of the child.
Now, the old rule was it was set up that if the court found that there’s domestic violence, that then they would set up a presumption against you having custody or unsupervised visitation.
That rule is changing and it’s still to be considered, but it doesn’t automatically set up that presumption. However, that doesn’t mean that making that plea isn’t a problem.
If you enter a guilty plea, if you enter a nolo plea, if you’re convicted, then that is beyond reasonable doubt evidence that you did commit that act of domestic violence.
Even if you get a deferral, the fact of the deferral can still be brought up in court. The guilty plea can still be brought up in court in your family case and the court has to consider, and it will weigh against you having custody or visitation. If you want something more than supervised visitation, that is a potential problem.
Now, a couple of things. Again, this is a very fact-specific consideration. There may be circumstances where it’s better to take the plea and take your chances in family court than it is to risk a trial if it looks like you might get convicted.
Because the criminal conviction is not going to help you either, and plus, if you go to jail or prison, if you’re talking about a felony charge, then it’s probably better to make the deal.
Now, if you are going to lead to something like that, I would always tell you to plead no-contest, if you’re permitted to, rather than pleading guilty, because at least that gives you something to argue in the family court that, “Well, I never admitted to that,” and particularly if you’re getting a deferral.
Then I think it’s important if you’re allowed to, do the nolo plea. Because then you did admit to it, and you weren’t legally convicted of the crime. Now, it’s still coming up.
I mean, we should understand in that situation, that’s coming up and it will be used evidence against you, but it’s not as damning as if you come right out and say, “Yeah, I did that,” or get convicted for it. So it’s something to be aware of. It is beneficial to do the nolo plea, which is the no-contest plea.
If you’re dealing with a situation where it’s shaky facts, this is where you really want to talk to your lawyer about going to a jury trial. There is a risk. Understand, there is a risk. If you get convicted at trial, the consequences are probably going to be much harsher than if you take a plea deal.
However, if it’s a situation where it’s a winnable case, the advantage of going to a jury trial is if you beat it, then you’re going into family court as if more or less, free to litigate it however you like, and you have the best chance of getting a favorable outcome from the family court judge, without a criminal case hanging over your head, whether it’s a deferral or whether it’s a conviction. So it is something to be aware of.
There are risks with going to a jury trial. I mean, any time you do a contested hearing of any kind, the outcome can be unpredictable, and juries are inherently unpredictable because you don’t necessarily know who might be on the panel and you don’t necessarily know what that panel’s temperament is going to be like until you try the case and get an outcome. So there are risks involved.
And I’m going to sit here and tell you guys right now, that is not a situation you want to go into without counsel. A jury trial, you definitely want a lawyer. But yes, there are situations where that may be your best option if you want to normalize the relationship with your child and you don’t want to be on supervised visitation for the foreseeable future.