Attorney James Knox Discusses Domestic Violence in the NFL

Personal Injury Attorney James KnoxWith recent media attention on domestic violence in the NFL, we spoke with Attorney James Knox, with Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP. Here’s what he offered about California Law and the legality around domestic abuse in the NFL.

With recent media attention on domestic violence in the NFL, how has it affected the way the general population and prosecutors view domestic violence cases?

James Knox: I would say that any time that we see a lot of media coverage regarding a specific event – in this instance, domestic violence – and on the criminal side of a court, you do tend to see more prosecutions. The prosecutors that we deal with typically receive a copy of the police report from whatever the arresting agency is. That police report is, again, forwarded to them, and they make a decision whether or not to file the case and the specific charges based on the report. And what we have seen is, when we do have … click to read more

What constitutes domestic abuse in California?

James Knox: There are two different ways to answer that because there are two different areas of the code that talk about domestic violence. The criminal code, which is the penal code in California, has different sections that discuss domestic violence type cases.

The one that is the most frequently charged tends to be penal code section 273.5, which is corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be a married couple. It could be boyfriend and girlfriend living together. And in those instances, there has to be a specific injury to the alleged victim.… click to read more

What brought about the recent changes in how California handles these cases?

James Knox: I don’t know if it was recent. I would point to – it’s almost 20 years ago now, probably is exactly 20 years ago – the O.J. Simpson case.

That case changed everything as far as the laws that were in place regarding domestic cases here. In the past, prior to O.J. Simpson 20 years ago, if you had an instance where there was a domestic violence criminal case, if the alleged victim didn’t come forward to testify at the trial, most of the time the cases would be dismissed. After O.J. Simpson, the legislature changed the law … click to read more

Why are domestic abuse laws and penalties different from state to state?

James Knox: I’d probably say because each state is its own sovereign entity. They have the ability to dictate how you’d want to both classify and punish particular crimes, again, on the criminal side and on the civil side in the family law setting. So I think that’s probably the only definite answer I could give you. I can’t speak for the other states because I’ve never practiced outside of California.… click to read more

Considering different cultures and upbringings, what’s the line between how a parent disciplines children and the law?

James Knox: I don’t think that the law takes into account a particular person’s culture or race regarding how to discipline a child. And we’ve seen that recently in the Adrian Peterson case, which is out of Texas. Again, that was his defense through his attorney was that that’s how he was raised and so therefore that’s how he actually disciplined his children. California doesn’t distinguish that, nor do I think Texas does, either, as far as the reports and news that I have read on that case. So I don’t think there’s a difference. The law is the law, … click to read more

In addition to Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, and Ray McDonald all in the recent past have been alleged to have committed crimes of domestic abuse or domestic violence. Why has it taken the NFL so long to recognize the magnitude and frequency of abuse charges among its players?

James Knox: I don’t know that I can answer that. To me, the issue regarding those issues really is one, it’s an employment issue. It’s the NFL and its players as employees of the league. I would believe if I were standing in the shoes of the NFL that they have to be very careful as far as, again, just initially disciplining a player based only on the allegation. And that’s the concern that I would have if we react too quickly to some of these cases.

For example, the Ray Rice case. There were, once he was originally arrested … click to read more

Why do some teams like the 49ers allow an accused player to stay on the active roster while teams like the Vikings and the Panthers have suspended or inactivated players?

James Knox: I would guess that it has to be – it’s got to be their own discretion as to whether or not they want to, again, take any sort of employment action. I don’t handle employment law cases, but I think there has to be some area that you have to be careful about as far as removing a player and still not violating their rights regarding their employment. You can discipline a player for cause, and there’s probably a conduct clause in their contracts.

But, again, these are only allegations. We could always say that it could be … click to read more

How are professional athletes treated differently when it comes to plea bargaining?

James Knox: I don’t know that there is an answer to that. I think that plea bargaining tends to be the facts and circumstances of the case and it tends to rely heavily on both the defenses that are available to the defendant and the prosecution’s willingness to either prosecute the individual, maybe in the instance of a professional athlete maybe trying to avoid the media attention that would be associated with a professional athlete being tried in their courtroom.

We’ll go back to O.J. Simpson again. Here you go. The professional athlete being charged is probably one of the … click to read more

From what you’ve seen in your practice, why are women prone to stay in an abusive relationship and what is the tipping point for someone to request help and say, “Enough is enough?”

James Knox: I don’t know that I could say that as far as my criminal cases, and I don’t know that I have a general answer for you in the family law cases that we handle when I’m representing the victims of these cases. I think it’s specific to that individual. I don’t think there is any guideline that I could say there is a tipping point or there isn’t a tipping point.

I’ve seen cases where I’ve represented the victim in the family law case where it was the first instance where there was any domestic abuse. I’ve represented … click to read more

How should a victim safely try to extricate themselves from an abusive relationship?

James Knox: The most immediate thing is, of course, to call the police and then get away from the individual as quickly as possible. Law enforcement is specifically trained to deal with these types of domestic violence situations. The officers typically respond to the scene, separate the parties, assess the situation, and in most instances when there is the report, the victim again has the opportunity to get away from the accused and you have the opportunity then to avoid that conflict directly.

I would not recommend somebody thinking that it’s just going to go away. If there are instances … click to read more