Criminal Court Could Take Longer than Family Court
Video Transcribed: Criminal and family case, which one should you try first? My name is Brian L. Jackson. I’m a father’s defense lawyer in Oklahoma here with Dads.Law, where fathers are not disposable.
I want to talk to you about a conundrum that you come across occasionally where… well, more than occasionally, unfortunately, where you have a situation where a person is in both family court and criminal court at the same time, and both of them are looking like they’re going to go to trial. So, which do you deal with first? There are some potential downsides to either order of cases that one should be aware of.
From a starting point, anytime you testify in court, you are looking at a situation where you are testifying under oath and there’s a record left behind in most cases. And the net result of that is that if you are facing a criminal charge and the testimony goes in the direction, and you end up taking the stand, you can be made to take the stand against your will in civil court, unlike criminal court, and in family court, civil court. Then you could be potentially questioned about the facts of your criminal case.
Now you do have the right to plead the Fifth and refuse to answer questions, but should you do so, then what that leads to is a negative inference that the reason you’re pleading the Fifth has to do with the veracity of the allegations and that whatever it is they’re asking, there’s something bad that you’re not wanting to admit to for fear of incriminating yourself. And in civil court, that inference is 100% permissible, unlike in criminal court. So if you try the family law case first, the risk you run is you get called to the stand, and you wind up in a situation where you are maybe getting questioned about things you’re not in a position to testify about.
Now, on the flip side, if you wait and try the criminal case first, there are a couple of potential problems. First, it could mean your family case gets delayed, longer because it takes a lot more time to get a jury together for a criminal trial than it does to get a bench trial on a family case. And it’s hard enough to get trial dates on bench trials and family cases. So you can imagine what kind of delay that might lead to. The other thing is, depending on what happens in the criminal case, it could directly impact what happens in the family case afterward because of certain types of inferences and the effect of having a criminal conviction. For example, if you get convicted of anything to do with domestic violence, there is an immediate presumption that you are not a suitable placement for children, and you are not a suitable person to have visitation with children unsupervised. Now that can be overcome and rebutted, but it is most assuredly a problem.
And then, of course, there’s the issue of attorney’s fees. If it’s a domestic violence situation against the other party and you get convicted, guess what? Now you get to pay their fees, and because it’s a higher burden of proof in criminal court than what’s required to establish domestic violence for the purposes of fees, it becomes res judicata. Res judicata basically means no do-overs. So now that’s the law of the case. And in that situation, the law of the case is that you are a domestic batterer, and that means now you get to pay the other side’s fees, which is a problem.
So it’s kind of a hard call and it really just depends specifically on the facts in your situation. Of course, another problem is let’s say that you go to family court first and you get a favorable outcome, and it’s a child custody case. Well, if you go to criminal court and get nailed later or plead guilty, well that could be considered a substantial material change in circumstances that would justify a change in custody based on that criminal conviction or that criminal plea. So there’s that problem too. I mean, obviously, it would depend on the crime you pled to, but nevertheless, these are all things to consider in which one to try first.
Ultimately, to answer the question, I think it really depends on the particulars of your case. And this is where you need to consult with a great lawyer. And one place you can find a great dad’s rights lawyer in Tulsa is Dads.Law, where fathers are not disposable.