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Diversion as seen in Rice domestic violence case rare in Ohio

Domestic violence is an awful reality of our time. That's perhaps one reason why victims of such abuse enjoy strong legal protection under Ohio law. But in our system, where the right of the individual to be presumed innocent until proven guilty is enshrined in the Constitution, it is equally true that those charged with domestic violence deserve as robust a legal defense as can be mustered.

Every state approaches the prosecution of domestic violence in different ways. Take for example the case of NFL star Ray Rice. We suspect there are few readers who are unfamiliar with the matter. 

As has been widely reported, Rice was recently cut from the Baltimore Ravens. The impetus for that action was distribution of video taken last February in which Rice was seen apparently knocking his fiancee unconscious in a New Jersey hotel's elevator. A felony charge was filed, but in a deal worked out with prosecutors Rice entered a diversion program for anger management. He could avoid prosecution and the burden of a criminal record as a result.

New Jersey law allows for that kind of action for first time domestic violence offenders. But, according to the head of Ohio's Prosecuting Attorney's Association, it likely would not happen in this state.

He notes that while diversion programs can be set up by individual county prosecutors for some crimes, it's not something that applies to crimes of violence. He says the only instance he can imagine in which diversion might be allowed is if the defendant could make a reasonable claim that they were acting in self defense.

Still, it is not a foregone conclusion that a conviction for felony domestic violence in Ohio will result in prison time. Court-ordered counseling and probation are not uncommon sentences, depending on the elements of the case. That's why an attorney should always be consulted.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "In Ohio, diversion for domestic violence would not have been option for Ray Rice," Rita Price, Sept. 12, 2014

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