Preserving Families While Defending Against Criminal Charges

When family members are in trouble, we defend them. It is our first instinct. When one family member is in trouble, the rest of the family usually rallies around to help.

Defending a loved one becomes much more difficult when the alleged victim is another family member. Crimes in families can often lead to permanently broken relationships among siblings, spouses, parents, and children. Below are some scenarios where family crimes require an experienced family criminal lawyer who can help families navigate through some of the most difficult situations they will ever face together.


Child abuse comes in many forms. One of those is child neglect. Every parent fears going into a public place like a shopping mall and losing a child. Sometimes parents who are overjoyed to learn that their child has been found are shocked when they themselves are arrested for child neglect. Child neglect does not just happen in crowded places; in rural areas, children can wander out of the house and down the driveway onto another property. In these instances, the parents are often very caring people who may have been distracted with work, phone calls, or even other children. These families are devastated by criminal charges that call into question their ability to parent. This is compounded when child protective services and other state organizations get unnecessarily involved.

At Berry Law, we have seen child neglect cases in which a parent ran into a store for a couple of minutes and left his or her child in a car on a temperate day. Parents have been charged with child neglect after police received complaints about them having a few beers in front of their children prior to a Nebraska football game. Put simply, while some child neglect charges are absolutely necessary and valid, some simply are not.


Child abuse charges can come from disciplining, physical injury to children, and neglect. In some cases, parents are charged with child abuse for yelling at their child. While it is important that the government take an active role in protecting our children, government overreach and overcriminalization of parenting can seem ridiculous at times. In cases where a child is injured, however, not only does the accused parent face potential prison time, but family relations are permanently damaged as well. Often in serious child abuse cases, a trust is broken that can never be repaired.


Unfortunately, when spouses are fighting and divorce seems imminent, it’s not unusual for one spouse to make false child abuse allegations against the other. In some instances, the false allegations involve physical abuse coupled with alcohol and drug abuse. Unfortunately, the child is used as an instrument by one parent to make allegations against the other. These situations are always sad and can not only permanently damage a relationship between the parents, but between the parents and children as well.


All family crimes lawyers who have handled these cases know that child sex abuse cases are by far the most damaging to families. Even in situations in which a family member is not the alleged perpetrator, these cases can become so emotionally damaging to family members that they permanently destroy relationships.

The worst-case scenario is when a family member is charged with child sex abuse. While the accused faces spending the rest of his or her life in prison and lifetime sex offender registry, the family members also suffer from feelings of betrayal, loss, and uncertainty.

The Accused

As soon as allegations are made, family members take sides. In some instances, the accused has the support of most family members, but in others, that support is completely lost. While the courts presume innocence, that presumption does not exist outside of the courtroom. Family members often immediately divide into two camps: Those who believe the allegations and those who don’t.

The Alleged Victim

In child sex abuse cases, the alleged victim is also in a bad position. In instances where most of all the family members believe the alleged victim, he or she still faces the difficult reality that these allegations could put another family member in jail for life. Additionally, the accused often feels the effects of the accused’s arrest in terms of reputation and financial support. Furthermore, the criminal trial can be a traumatic experience for the alleged victim.

Other Family Members

Then there are those who are caught in the middle: Family members who don’t know who to believe. Often in child sex assault cases involving family members, the accused has little or no criminal history and most family members are caught completely by surprise. No one expects this to happen, especially not in their own family. Rarely do family members stay neutral. Most commonly, a family member will decide who he or she believes and stick with that person throughout the criminal trial regardless of facts.


Other challenging cases for a family defense lawyer are those involving domestic violence. People charged with domestic violence not only face the potential of prison time, but also the loss of jobs or careers. A crime of domestic violence can disqualify professionals from obtaining and maintaining licenses. Furthermore, the accusation alone may result in termination. In these types of cases, the entire family is affected in terms of their reputations and finances.

In several domestic abuse cases, a husband and wife are fighting and one of calls the cops. Sometimes alcohol is involved. Sometimes they are heard or seen by neighbors who call the police. Sometimes the domestic abuse allegations are true and other times they are false. Regardless, when the police show up to deal with a domestic assault call, someone is going to get arrested and someone will be charged with a crime.

These cases are extremely complex for medical professionals and members of the military. Military members convicted of crimes of domestic violence often face collateral consequences under the Lautenberg Amendment, which prevents them from possessing firearms and ultimately costs them their careers. This is not unique to the military – it also applies to law enforcement and other professionals as well.


In many instances, criminal allegations permanently destroy family relationships, resulting in distrust, alienation, and ultimately divorce. A good criminal defense lawyer will zealously defend his or her client, all the while understanding the tension the case may put on the client’s family. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime threatening to sever ties between family members, contact Berry Law to discuss your options.

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