Should first time domestic violence offenders be able to avoid jail time?

One of the many aspects of the Ray Rice situation is the fact (please correct me if the reports I’ve seen are wrong) that it’s SOP for first time domestic violence offenders in New Jersey to be offered what’s basically “counseling” instead of jail time. Rice was one of (I assume) many beneficiaries of this law/policy/standard.

I don’t know how much leeway prosecutors have on this (I assume a lot), but should that have been offered in Rice’s case in particular and to first time DV suspects in general? At the least, should it be offered much more sparingly? I don’t know recidivism rates for this offense, but I have to imagine it’d be pretty high.

Oops, after the edit window, but here’s more info on the legal aspects. It seems that Rice wouldn’t have faced any jail time at all even if convicted (which is a topic in of itself), but I think the debate still applies (though it has the added question of what punishment is more likely to get the dude to stop).

It’s not as simple as sending someone to jail or not. Every case of domestic violence is different. To really make a difference, you would need expert judges, attorneys, and police officers who can make informed decisions on an individualized case by case basis.

No quick fixes here. Every case is difficult and messy, which is why we ignore it.

I don’t see why “domestic violence” even enters into the argument in his situation. He flat-out assault-and-battered someone in a public place. Criminally, I think he should be liable in the same way as if he’d done that to anyone else in the same place, time, and situation.

Having said that, I bet he wouldn’t face any prison time for cold-cocking a complete stranger in that same elevator, if it were a first offense. :frowning:

Skip the complete stranger and change the scenario to same sex and know each other. Friends, couple, whatever. They start having an argument, one starts swinging at the other, the other cops a couple of low impact hits and retaliates hard.

Do you think that’s criminal?

The guy was provoked, although retaliation is not self defence, and there are many ways to defuse a situation like that without having knock a woman out cold, so for mine it’s not the same as just deciding to whack a random stranger because you didn’t like the way they looked at you.

Does anybody really believe this was the “first time” he was violent toward his wife?

Fist time he was caught, maybe.


I don’t understand leniency due to “first-time.” Why can’t I get leniency the first time I kill someone? The first time I rob a bank? The first time I commit a terrorist attack? What’s special about “domestic violence” that excuses it at all?

I forgot our criminal justice system is based on evidence-free presuppositions.

To me seeing the videos it should be called self defense. She hit him first and he reacted. I lived with a broad who loved to slap me in the face and one day I hit her back. I packed up that night and never saw her again except in the court house when we did the divorce, and she was crying big tears in front of the judge begging me to come home etc…

Around here, first time domestic violence offenders are generally offered a diversion plan where the charges are dismissed after completing anger management classes and the like. I say “generally” because it isn’t offered if it was particularly violent. But the law states that the diversion “counts” for enhanced penalties for subsequent offenses.

Even convictions for first offense DV rarely get jail time (even though up to six months in jail is permitted). However convictions for 2nd offense DV require 90 days in jail (or alternatively home confinement). 3rd offense is a felony punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison.

I think that laws against domestic violence, like those against DUI and shoplifting are unique and require this “tiered” approach. I think that most any of us could screw up at some point in our lives and drive drunk, take an item without paying for it, or get in a physical altercation with a spouse. You might not be a bad person just made a poor decision.

If you do it two and three times, chances are you really are a bad person and need to be locked up.

If that’s truly how you feel, and that’s the impression you came away with after watching that video, I don’t think you and I have anything productive to say to each other. Cheers.

90-95% of all Americans packed into prisons should be able to avoid jail time. You asked for my opinion, and now you have it.

What would sending them (she hit him as well) to jail accomplish?

From the video, they both are pretty messed up and have a dysfunctional relationship. I’d rather we spent the few grand it takes to imprison someone for a couple weeks on therapy to try and fix the problem. If counselling doesn’t fix it, well, then we can go ahead and try something else.

I don’t like what he did, but I think I have to agree. Why is it o.k. for a woman to hit a man? Because women are smaller? I’m small for man, but it doesn’t mean I could walk up to a big guy and start slapping him without expecting to get knocked out. And it most likely would be viewed as my fault. That’s a double standard.

You would get a shorter sentence for any crime, except maybe those where the first conviction gets you life. Previous offences are taken into account at sentencing. The famous serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, for example, had actually been to prison before when he murdered one of his parents, I forget which, and he was out in a few years. Then he got a longer sentence for, I believe, child molestation. Then he got a dozen life and death sentences for being a serial killer. Escalating with each offence, you see.

Probably provocation. It’s only self defence, at least here, if you use the bare minimum force required to defend yourself. Of course he couldn’t get out, and she was lunging for him at the point he knocked her out, so an argument could probably be made for self defence.

You can. If you killed one person, you might get a prison sentence with the possibility of being paroled at some point. If you killed people over and over, you would probably get life in prison or even the death penalty. Being a first-time offense is always a consideration.

Any crime that doesn’t result in irrevocable harm shouldn’t require jail time for an isolated incident. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t circumstances that should be excepted from that. I used the term ‘isolated’ instead of ‘first time’ because it shouldn’t apply to cases where the perpetrator happens to be caught for the first time, but it still requires some level of proof that the incident isn’t isolated.