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Domestic violence charges and role of diversionary programs

On Feb. 15, 2014, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiancé Janay Palmer were arrested after being involved in a domestic altercation that resulted in Rice initially being charged with simple assault. In the wake of his arrest, hotel video surveillance footage surfaced that showed Rice dragging Palmer, who appeared to be unconscious, from a hotel elevator.

Subsequently, charges against Rice were changed to aggravated assault to which he plead not guilty. He opted to participate in a first-time offender program which required he attend counseling. Today, questions remain as to whether Rice may face additional criminal charges after additional video footage from inside the hotel elevator was publically released which shows Rice punching Palmer who then appears to be knocked unconscious.

Since the additional footage was made public, there's been much debate over both the NFL's handling of the matter as well as Rice's legal punishment. However, prosecutors have been quick to defend Rice's inclusion in a first-time offender program as this type of diversionary program is customarily offered to first-time offenders in domestic violence cases.

In Minnesota, domestic violence laws and related punishments depend largely on the number of offenses and the level of harm that results. In cases where an individual is charged with a fifth-degree assault misdemeanor and is a first-time offender, he or she is often provided with the option of entering a diversionary program that includes counseling and education.

For first time offenders in domestic violence cases, diversionary programs are often a preferred alternative to jail time. Through these programs, an individual is able to obtain often much-needed counseling through which he or she learns to deal with conflict and anger in healthier ways. An individual's participation in these types of programs can change and improve both their life and those of a spouse and children. 

WCCO-TV, "Good Question: What Are The Laws On Domestic Violence?," Heather Brown, Sep. 9, 2014

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