Tangaro Law | Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence and the NFL

When we see hard hits, and big plays on the field during football games, we celebrate. Football has become almost a religion in America, with millions of people tuning in for hours every Sunday. It is a staple of American culture. But what happens when the hard hitting, competitive, and overall violent nature of the sport bleeds into the off the field lives of the players and those around them? Recently the NFL has come under fire for numerous domestic assault arrests that have happened in a very short amount of time. Many are left to wonder what has bred such a violent culture in the NFL and what can be done to put an end to it.

The Problem Recently

In the last few months the NFL has seen the arrests of Ray Rice, Jonathon Dwyer, Adrian Peterson, and Greg Hardy, all for violence against women and/or children. Domestic violence is not something new in the NFL, although, despite public perception, the NFL still has a lower rate of domestic violence than the general population. Still, it is undeniable that there is pervasive violence in the NFL. Since 2011 the NFL has seen 20 players arrested for charges involving domestic violence. The most recent suspension handed down upon any of these players is the yearlong suspension of Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice, which is currently being appealed. Other than that the longest suspension handed down for domestic violence charges was Seahawks cornerback AJ Jefferson, who received a four game suspension. Many players who have been arrested for these crimes often walk away without any official punishment from the league. For instance when former all-star wide receiver Chad Johnson was arrested for head butting his girlfriend in the summer of 2012 the league handed down no official punishment on Johnson. Johnson was however, released by his team, the Miami Dolphins. This apathy has led many to accuse the NFL of indifference towards the troubled lives of its players. It seems to many as if in the past the NFL and its individual teams have only enacted punishments when their hands are forced by public opinion. For instance, many have praised the Baltimore Ravens for releasing Ray Rice from the team, and making a public statement disparaging domestic violence. To some it would seem as if the Ravens are making a statement that their organization will not stand behind those accused of this despicable action, however they took no action against their star linebacker Terrell Suggs, who was accused of dragging his girlfriend alongside his car at a “high rate of speed.” This story flew relatively under the radar. This has led many to believe that teams and owners in the NFL will only push for punishment of players if the public turns on them, much like how the public turned on Ray Rice following the video release of him allegedly hitting his fiance in an Atlantic City hotel elevator.

Policy Moving Forward

Since the Ray Rice incident the NFL has drafted up new policies moving forward. Under the new rules those found guilty of domestic assault are subject to a six game suspension for a first offense, and an indefinite suspension for the second. Important to note in this new rule change is that these punishments are not limited to players, but any member of the NFL, including coaches, assistants, owners, etc. The NFL has also begun to partner with anti violence organizations, giving financial and promotional support to National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Domestic Violence in Utah

Domestic violence is broadly defined in Utah based on the definition of “cohabitant and also based on the types of crimes that qualify for a domestic violence designation. Contrary to what many people believe, a person can be charged with domestic violence for things as simple as throwing or breaking an item (Criminal mischief). It is not necessary to have an actual physical altercation.

“Cohabitant” means an emancipated person pursuant or a person who is 16 years of age or older who:

(a) is or was a spouse of the other party;

(b) is or was living as if a spouse of the other party;

(c) is related by blood or marriage to the other party;

(d) has or had one or more children in common with the other party;

(e) is the biological parent of the other party’s unborn child; or

(f) resides or has resided in the same residence as the other party.

Therefore, you can be charged with a domestic violence crime for getting in a fight with a roommate and breaking something (Domestic Violence criminal mischief).

Domestic violence crimes are enhanceable and so if a person is convicted of a subsequent domestic violence crime within a five-year period, the new charge is enhanced by one degree.

Collateral Consequences: If possible, it is best to always avoid a domestic violence designation. The issue is fact specific, but there is a real possibility that a person can be prevented under federal law from possessing a firearm if convicted of a domestic violence crime.

It is important to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney when facing possible domestic violence charges.


Cara Tangaro,

Salt Lake City, Utah Criminal Defense Attorney