Petty Crime Cases Affect Credibility
Video Transcribed: My name is Brian L. Jackson. I’m a Tulsa father’s rights attorney here at Dads.Law, where fathers are not disposable. And we’re talking some more about the issue of petty crime and how it could affect your custody case. So one of the questions I got is whether or not different types of petty crime can have different types of effects on your case.
One thing I’ll start with leading with is that if you are engaged in a petty crime that is a crime of dishonesty, for example, petty larceny, larceny of merchandise from a retailer, bogus check, those types of crimes in addition to being a potential consideration on the best interest analysis because it shows you have what can fairly be described as a shitty character, it also can affect your credibility as a witness.
Anytime you’re involved in a crime of dishonesty, that can be used to impeach your word, which is what you’re giving any time you testify in court, can be used to impeach your word in court.
So that does negatively impact you both directly in terms of the best interest analysis, but also in terms of how much credibility your word will have. So if you need to testify on your own behalf, and nine times out of 10 if you’re in family court, you will testify on your own behalf, then having that kind of history can be a potential problem.
Another example of a petty crime that can more seriously negatively impact your case would be anything involving substances. Yes, it’s the equivalent of a traffic ticket in Oklahoma now, but that pop is still going to look really, really bad to that judge because it’s evidence that you may be involved in the use of illicit substances, that you are involved in the use of illicit substances and you may have an addiction issue, which is a mandatory consideration and which could potentially seriously impact your case.
Some other examples of petty crime that might be a real serious problem are things like if you got a ticket because your kid wasn’t properly restrained in a car, for example, they’re not in a kid’s safety seat, they don’t have a seatbelt on. Court’s going to take that seriously. DUI is a more serious misdemeanor. That’s a predicate misdemeanor. Again, it will absolutely be considered in the best interest analysis.
I worked on a case a few years ago where the opposing party got busted for DUI in the midst of custody litigation, and that was one of the reasons why he lost and lost badly. So DUI is a big deal. If you get busted for it, it’s not going to help. Anything violent is definitely going to be considered, particularly if it is anything to do with domestic violence. Domestic violence is a mandatory consideration and it’s a pretty serious strike against you. So that’s another example.
Now, there are other petty crimes that probably, if it doesn’t involve kids, it doesn’t involve substances, it doesn’t involve violence, especially DV, and it’s not something that’s a crime of dishonesty where it would affect your credibility in court, it may not necessarily be devastating.
And I do want to be clear that some of these crimes I’ve talked about, don’t help. Some will hurt you more than others, but they’re not automatically a bar from you getting custody. They just make it a more difficult hurdle to overcome, to get in there, get joint custody, and get equal time with the child, particularly if it’s something recent. Now, I do want to mention something else that’s important to understand. There is a difference between being convicted and being put on a deferral. And this is an important distinction.
And if you are in criminal court in a situation where you would anticipate having custody litigation, or you are in the midst of custody litigation, it’s important to understand the distinction. And it’s important that when you talk to your criminal attorney and your family attorney, or if they’re the same person, that you want to make it clear to them… that you want to understand clearly is a deferral is not a conviction. It does not make you guilty of that crime, and by itself is not evidence of the underlying facts that led to that charge.
However, the other side of it is if you do take a deferral off a guilty plea, a guilty plea is an admission of the underlying facts of that crime. So if you know you’ve got custody litigation pending, or it’s likely that you’re going to draw a motion to modify off the back of a criminal charge, then you want to plead no contest because then you’re admitting to anything. You’re just basically… A no-contest plea is exactly what it sounds like. It’s saying that I’m not contesting this. You may indeed have enough evidence to convict me. But if you’re offered a deferral, make a no-contest plea.
Don’t plea guilty, especially not if it’s one of these crimes I just talked about, because that will negatively impact your case. It could affect your credibility, could be a consideration in the best interest analysis and could be considered a substantial material change in circumstance to justify a change in custody.
Any of those things are possible. So just be aware of that. And if you’re dealing with a situation where you have petty crimes on your record, and you are concerned about how this impacts your custody case, you need a good lawyer. And one place you can find a good lawyer is at Dads.Law, where fathers are not disposable.