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Ray Rice and When Couples Get Violent: Felony Charges in Dating and Marriage

Things exploded on the web this week when TMZ.com published a video caught by a hotel elevator cam of NFL star Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens punching his fiance (now his wife) Janay Palmer so hard that she fell unconscious to the floor of the elevator. Things only got worse as the video shows Rice dragging Palmer out of the elevator and leaving her laying there, her legs still halfway in the elevator, her torso laid out on what appears to be lobby floor.

Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice

Watch the video here.

It’s a shocking bit of footage, and it’s caused all sorts of reaction in this country.

For instance, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is reporting an increase in domestic violence calls of 84% in just the first 48 hours since the Ray Rice video was aired.

Additionally, the video went viral on the internet with millions of hits. On Twitter, the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft both trended this week, as women took to social media to share their personal stories and concerns regarding domestic violence.

Janay Palmer Rice has come forward to address the public, as well. She is standing by her man, and she’s angry with the media for what she considered a harmful invasion of her family’s privacy.

What About Criminal Charges for Ray Rice?

From a criminal defense standpoint, of course, the first question is — what happens to Ray Rice? Well, turns out that this video isn’t new: this incident happened several months ago. The NFL Powers that Be may not have seen it back then, but local prosecutors sure did.

Ray Rice already faced criminal charges.

He’s already been before a judge for what happened in that hotel elevator.

Back in May, the prosecutor recommended Ray Rice for a pre-trial intervention program and the judge approved it. This means that Rice works the program instead of doing jail time, something that isn’t uncommon for a first time offender like Rice ( especially one who has a defense attorney at his side to advocate for him).

Think of it as a type of probation, in Texas terms.

This week, many are questioning the punishment that Ray Rice received for hitting a woman so hard that his single punch rendered her unconscious. Outcry increased his professional sanctions from the two game suspension he initially received to being fired from the Ravens and possibly permanently barred from the National Football League.

For many, that’s still not enough.

What about jail time for Ray Rice? It’s what many are wanting to see happen.

Granted, that year-long intervention program is still ongoing for Rice so his criminal case is still active. If Rice were to commit a crime today, then the state could reconsider that domestic violence sentence from May 2014 — Ray Rice isn’t out of the woods on the assault charges that were filed against him yet.

However, a deal was made between the prosecution and defense and the judge signed off on it — so now, in view of the public outcry and despite the victim’s stance on the matter, can Rice face additional punishment now?

Maybe. There’s debate on the power of the judge to revisit things though it appears the prosecution is standing firm on its decision here. Rice is working the program. The victim isn’t complaining that justice wasn’t done.

Bottom line: don’t expect Ray Rice to see additional criminal punishment here as long as he keeps the deal that’s been made.

Additional Lessons From The Ray Rice Story

1. Cameras and Privacy

There are a couple of other lessons to take away from the Ray Rice story. One is that elevator camera. Is there an argument that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in an elevator? Is there an argument that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy ANYWHERE other than your private home any longer?

Cameras are popping up in more and more places and it’s all being done under the banner of “security” – something that we should welcome for our protection and safety.

What happens to those images? Who sees them?

We don’t know.

This camera caught a bad thing.   But what all are cameras capturing all the time, about all of us?

2. Growing Campaign to Fight Rape and Assault Will Mean More Charges Filed

Rape and domestic assault are very bad things. There are good reasons that laws are on the books to punish men (and women) who commit these crimes.

However, in the zeal to protect victims and to stop future harm, there not only will be an increase in public awareness and in charges being filed … there may well be innocent men (and women) who will be stigmatized by these allegations when they did not do wrong.

College campuses are seeing a growing concern that college men need to be very aware of the potential to be falsely accused of rape as a real concern.

It’s changing how dating is done, because no one wants a finger pointed at them on a false allegation.

The Ray Rice story will result in some allegations being made of domestic assault when that is not what happened. Sure, more victims of real assaults are going to be encouraged and empowered to come forward. But these viral videos will also produce charges and claims that should never have been made.

The sad thing is that just being accused of domestic assault or rape can permanently harm someone.  The stigma can impact and even destroy social relationships as well as employment, future educational opportunities, and more.

For more on domestic assault charges in Texas, read our resources page here.

For more on Michael Lowe Case Results regarding domestic violence and other charges go here.


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