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Debra Joan Cheatham Reece
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Debra Reece’s Answers

742 total


  • Will they get tried as an adult, or a minor. And what charges will he get??

    I know a 17 year old who is being charged with sexual conduct with an 8 year old.. He was 16 when he touched the child. He didn't force the child to do anything. The child did it on his own free will.. The child touched the 16 year old and he touc...

    Debra’s Answer

    Force is not required when the alleged victim of a sex crime is under the age of consent (16, in Arkansas). So there are two things you need to do: (1) do not post anything else online about this -- you've already revealed more information than should have been revealed in a public place, and prosecutors read through this site as well as we criminal defense attorneys; and (2) hire a good criminal defense attorney with experience in sex crimes involving children. The 17 year old could be charged as a juvenile, but could very well be charged as an adult -- that is usually the prosecutor's preference here in Russellville, and it's the prosecutor who decides which court to file in.

    Be sure the 17 year old does NOT talk to the police or to anyone else. Under no circumstances. They will want to talk to him and they will tell him they just want to hear "his side of the story." No, they don't. They want him to make admissions so they can use them against him in court. If he's already talked to police, that's water under the bridge, but don't let him talk to anyone else, except his lawyer.

    Good luck.

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  • The consequence to child abandonment.

    For 3 years I looked for my son. But hippa laws were blocking me from finding her. Finally she left him in a shelter asked them to take care of him cause she couldn't. investigation started and she was accused of trying to kill him. I then got a ...

    Debra’s Answer

    There are some devastating effects of being accused of child abandonment. It angers me that DHS has threatened you this way -- unfortunately, that does not surprise me at all.

    Your questions cannot be answered here on a website. You're going to have to bite the bullet and talk to a local family law attorney who can advise you. Otherwise, if you are hit with a child abandonment accusation, DHS can put you on the Child Maltreatment Registry, and you could endanger your custody of your younger child (not to mention a whole other group of problems).

    Since mom has filed for custody and you are willing to give up custody, your Kansas City lawyer might be able to draft an agreed order for the parties to sign to change custody back to mom. (You were told correctly that jurisdiction must remain in KC, where the initial custody decision was made.) Ultimately, it will be up to the KC court, and if the KC court awards custody to mom (through an agreed order or otherwise), I can see no reason that CPS would be able to charge you with child endangerment. Obviously, you can obey a court order to return custody to mom. But talk to a family law attorney here to find out your rights and responsibilities in ARKANSAS, with our DHS office. You do NOT want to maneuver your way through DHS without an attorney.

    Good luck!

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  • What do you do when you find out the kid isn't yours?

    I've been at battle with his mother for almost 4 years. Over child support, visitation, and school just everything. Nothing was ever court ordered and never married. We did everything ourselves. I went into the military and got him on my insurance...

    Debra’s Answer

    You need to consult with a good family law attorney immediately. Since you are not the father of the child, you are not responsible. And if there is no court order making you responsible, you should be able to just bow out of the child's life, if that's truly what you want to do. On the other hand, since you have stood "in loco parentis" (in the place of a parent), you might have visitation rights to the child if you wanted to pursue those rights.

    Before you make any decision that you'll have to live with for the rest of your life, consult with a family-law attorney. We are not allowed to solicit clients on this website, but we are allowed to make recommendations. There are several very good family law attorneys in Conway. James Bargar, Molly Lucas, Chip Leibovich (at Bennett & Williams) are three who come immediately to mind. Or just look up "family law" in Conway here on Avvo, and find one you feel comfortable with.

    I am so sorry you are going through this. A deception like this can be devastating. But give yourself some time and distance before you decide to end any relationship with this child. If he's 4 years old, you have obviously developed a relationship, and his biological parentage does not necessarily trump your father/son relationship.

    Good luck!

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  • Can I get the defendant in a breach of contract case to pay attorney fees?

    I was just researching a breach of contract case I am looking to hire a lawyer for and found something that looks like I won't be able to recover attorney fees. There was no attorney fee clause in our contract. Am I going to have to pay out of my ...

    Debra’s Answer

    Assuming this is an Arkansas-based contract and the breach of contract lawsuit will be brought in Arkansas, the action should fall under Ark. Code Ann. 16-22-308:

    In any civil action to recover on an open account, statement of account, account stated, promissory note, bill, negotiable instrument, or contract relating to the purchase or sale of goods, wares, or merchandise, or for labor or services, or breach of contract, unless otherwise provided by law or the contract which is the subject matter of the action, the prevailing party may be allowed a reasonable attorney's fee to be assessed by the court and collected as costs.

    You need to consult with a contracts attorney, who can look at your contract and specifically tell you if it falls under 16-22-308 and you can be awarded an attorney fee. Attorneys rarely take contract cases on a contingency basis (unlike tort cases). So, understand that you will have to pay your attorney out of your own funds (generally) and ask the Court to award you your attorney fees if you win.

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  • Is an agreement to split property if a couple breaks up legally binding?

    We are definitely split up, no chance of reconciliation. After a few years on the rocks, we signed an agreement that says "We, names. consider ourselves to be husband and wife in the eyes of God, but do not believe the state has authori...

    Debra’s Answer

    Unfortunately, we cannot answer in-depth questions on this website about particular contracts. You will need to consult with an attorney, and take the contract and all information about your property (trust, deed, mortgage) to that attorney for your consultation.

    I am assuming, based on your question, that you were not legally married; therefore, this would not fall under a marital distribution scenario, but would merely fall under a civil contract lawsuit. Speak to a good contracts lawyer who has a background with trusts and real property. A consultation is usually $150 or less, and it will be well worth it to find out your rights. Good luck!

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  • Can the state still charge you if dhs closed their case with unsubstantiated evidence?

    I'm being charged with 2nd degree battery for supposedly beating my soon to be step son. The father is saying that I did and they have my son had a bruise that I have no clue where it came from. The mother is on my side and is witness that the bru...

    Debra’s Answer

    As Mr. Dowden said, the State can charge you, regardless of the result of the DHS investigation. However, your attorney will have some discussions with the prosecutor and may be able to negotiate a dismissal of the charge. This may be one of those cases where the charge was commenced before the investigation was fully developed.

    If you have already been charged (and it sounds like you have), you will want to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer. If you cannot afford one, the court will appoint you a public defender. Once you have a lawyer, be sure to give them all the information you know about the DHS case so they can follow up.

    Good luck!

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  • My 15 year old daughter was not read her Miranda rights

    My daughter was arrested and was not read her Miranda rights until after they arrived at the police station while she was filling out a statement. They never told her what she was being arrested for until after she made a statement, is this incorr...

    Debra’s Answer

    As you've been told, the answer is fact-specific. Retain a good criminal defense attorney for your daughter. Depending on the charge, this might rightly be charged in juvenile court (so her record could be clean). As for when they read her Miranda rights to her, that depends on when they started questioning her and whether she was in custody at the time. Hire a good lawyer. There is no other way to protect her rights.

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  • Can a Vilonia Arkansas police officer question a minor and take a statement without a parent or lawyer present

    kids went into the sports complex and took some soda pops and candy after hours and were charged with commercial burglary and theft of property, do the officers have the right to question/ integrate and make the minor right a statement out without...

    Debra’s Answer

    If the minor is a suspect, he must have a parent/guardian or attorney present during questioning, unless he is being charged as an adult. If being charged as an adult, then if he waived his right to an attorney, they can question him. If he was charged as a juvenile, then juvenile rules prevail.

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  • What are the rights of grandparents to see their grandchildren when they are allowed to see them and spend a week at at time

    When the mom gets mad at grandma she wont let them see children. the 3 year old is very close to her grandparents and has a room at their house. Her father was killed before she was born and the mother was more than glad to be supported money, hou...

    Debra’s Answer

    Both of the answers you have received are excellent answers. However, there is a caveat you need to know. A case from the US Supreme Court with your same situation (dad died, mom refused to let dad's parents see the kids, after at first allowing them to) was very clear that a fit parent has complete control over who their child is allowed to see, and that trumps any right the grandparents have to see their grandchildren. While Arkansas has a statute that allows grandparent visitation, that statute has strict limitations. If the mother is a fit parent, you may win a case in a local court, but it is likely that would be reversed by the Arkansas Court of Appeals or Arkansas Supreme Court, because the Arkansas statute cannot trump the decision of the US Supreme Court, because the Court's case stated that parenting, along with the right to complete care, custody, and control of one's children, is a fundamental constitutional right, and cannot be interfered with by a third party, even if that third party is a grandparent with whom the child has developed a relationship. Arkansas has developed some very, very narrow exceptions to that, but you will need to hire a family law attorney who is well experienced in grandparent visitation to be able to present the proper evidence to overcome that very heavy constitutional right.

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  • Can I sue Murphy Oil co for Personal injury and neglect?

    I pulled up to the pump in Berryville Ar to get Gas. My mother pulled behind me because she put her card in the card reader to pay for me. I flip the pump on and the hose split spaying over 16 gallons of gas all over my truck me and soaked my moth...

    Debra’s Answer

    As you can probably tell from the answers you have received, the question is not "can I sue?" The question is "If I sue, can I win?" To win a negligence suit, you must prove the oil company did failed to do something they should have done (sounds like you have that unless the hose split because a third party did damage to it and the oil company was unaware), and that was the direct cause of injury to you or your mother. Your vehicle was injured, but they offered to pay for a car wash, so a jury will probably feel you were sufficiently made whole for that. You and your mom were sprayed with gasoline, but that's not enough -- you have to have some sort of injury for which a jury would think you need to be compensated with money. You have not mentioned injuries. The officer's attitude has nothing to do with the oil company's liability. So unless you guys had medical treatment directly caused by being doused in gasoline, you probably would not be successful. You should talk to a personal injury lawyer. Bring in any medical records from any injuries caused by the gasoline. Most of them will give you a free consultation, so you can learn what your chances are of success. Good luck.

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