Tag Archives: crime

Divorce Court vs. Criminal Court

Sometimes divorcing parties act like criminals, but Divorce Court is NOT Criminal Court (typically).

Divorce court, a.k.a. Chancery Court, is a civil court. The Court’s function is to legally divorce parties that are entitled to be divorced and divide property. The Court has the authority to deal with and punish conduct that is violative of its Orders or disruptive conduct that occurs directly in its presence. Other than those instances it is not a punitive Court. You typically are not punished for marital fault…

Criminal court, which can be Circuit, County, Municipal, or Justice, among others, can punish. These Courts have prosecutors whose job is to prove the accused committed a crime/violated a law. The Judge or a jury determines if the matter was proven and a punishment, including; incarceration, fines, and other remedies.

However, sometimes these can relate or overlap. Conduct that could serve as grounds for divorce, such as domestic violence, is also a crime. The Court’s are independent of one another and you can be punished in Criminal Court and divorced in Chancery Court over the same facts.

Interestingly, your right to plead the fifth, invoking the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution can be done in both Courts. While it cannot be used against you in Criminal Court, it can be used to make an adverse inference in Chancery Court. So, if you are accused of adultery/habitual fornication in Criminal Court, which IS a crime in Mississippi, you may invoke the fifth and the prosecutor must prove a violation of the law by beyond a reasonable doubt, however in Divorce Court, while you may invoke the fifth, the Court can treat that as an adverse inference/admission and could find such to be enough to rise to clear and convincing evidence of adultery. Confused yet?

Divorce Court and Criminal Court are different animals, with different standards and different outcomes. However, all are serious and your rights may be infringed if the Court determines they should be.

Matthew Thompson is a Divorce Court lawyer and encourages those charged with a crime to confer with an experienced Criminal Defense attorney.

Things NOT to tell the Police…

There’s an old joke…”You have the Right to remain silent, but do you have the Ability?”

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While my primary practice area is Family Law, there is some spillover into other areas. Through the years, I have learned there are just some things you do not say to law enforcement.

5.  I did it!

4.  I only had a couple.

3.  Trying to meet your quota?

2.  Oink, oink.

1.  I called you because he stole my marijuana pipe. 

Matthew Thompson is a Family Law attorney in Mississippi and advises you to be respectful of law enforcement a nd not say these things. 

Follow the blog: BowTieLawyer Visit the websiteThompson Law Firm  You may also contact Matthew with your family law case, question or concern at 

(601) 850-8000  or Matthew@bowtielawyer.ms


The TRUTH about LIE Detectors.

“I’ll take a lie detector test!” Famous last words.


Lie Detector Tests and their application in Mississippi Law is limited. The tests themselves are deemed generally unreliable by a legal standard and are not admissible in Court, absent mutual agreement or stipulation otherwise. However, law enforcement relies on them when administered properly. Personally, I have seen testing and the results impact several cases.

First off, What is a Polygraph Test? A test which measures and records physiological indicators such as; blood pressure, pulserespiration, and skin conductivity, while the subject is asked and answers a series of questions. Wikipedia.

During the actual test only the test taker and examiner are present. The questions asked are typically only a few and they are asked a number of times, the exact same way. There are no surprise questions, no questions that are not rehearsed, and no Lamp Shades.

The test is measuring your involuntary responses and during the pre-test phase you are instructed to lie about an answer for comparison to involuntary responses during the testing.

Despite their limited Courtroom application, law enforcement agencies routinely administer Polygraph tests to suspects of crimes and the FBI uses polygraph testing regularly for not only suspects and witnesses, but also testing their own personnel, staff and agents.

I have used Polygraph testing in several cases where issues involved abuse allegations.  In one instance a properly administered and passed Polygraph test helped result in a matter being dismissed by the Court and helped end a criminal investigation and rightly so.

As for the tricks on Ocean’s Eleven on to how to beat the test…well, the FBI tests for counter measures.

Matthew Thompson is a Family Law litigation attorney in Mississippi and encourages you not to lie!

Follow the blog: BowTieLawyer Visit the website: Thompson Law Firm

You may also contact Matthew with your family law case, question or concern at (601) 850-8000 or Matthew@bowtielawyer.ms.

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Pleading the 5th in Divorce

“I plead the 5th!”

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. –5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

In divorce cases pleading the 5th is not often invoked.  The reason is divorce cases are civil matters, by their nature.  Not civil in the sense that everyone is always nice, but civil as opposed to criminal.

When Can you Plead the 5th in a Divorce Matter?

When answering the question would involve you admitting to a crime.  Interestingly, adultery, or habitual fornication rather, is a crime in Mississippi. It is rarely prosecuted, but is a crime nonetheless.  Due to this you may invoke the 5th. However, you have not outsmarted the system.  Pleading the 5th in a civil matter creates a presumption that you did what was asked.  Or, at least the Chancellor can use it against you.

So, how does this play out? (envision a Courtroom)

Attorney:  Mr. Smith, it’s true isn’t is that you have committed adultery during your marriage to Mrs. Smith?

Mr. Smith:  I plead the 5th.

Attorney:  Let the record reflect that Mr. Smith has invoked his 5th amendment right against self-incrimination as it relates to a question about adultery and the Court may make an adverse inference against Mr. Smith for doing so.

Judge:  Duly noted.

Why do it then?  The witness does not have to disclose  the dirty details, name names, places, locations, or positions.

Pleading the 5th may not stop you from getting a divorce, but it may prevent bringing other persons down with you.

Matthew Thompson is a Divorce and Domestic Relations Attorney in the Magnolia State. Follow the blog:#BowTieLawyer 


Arrested & Divorced; Just Say No!

Everyone knows that Adultery is a fault ground for divorce in Mississippi. Adultery is defined as sexual intercourse with a  person of the opposite sex, not your spouse. It also must be uncondoned, which means legally forgiven by the other spouse, and it cannot have been committed in collusion with the other spouse just to gain a divorce. MCA § 93-5-1.

However, Adultery may also be considered crime!

§ 97-29-1. Adultery and fornication; unlawful cohabitation 

If any man and woman shall unlawfully cohabit, whether in adultery or fornication, they shall be fined in any sum not more than five hundred dollars each, and imprisoned in the county jail not more than six months; and it shall not be necessary, to constitute the offense, that the parties shall dwell together publicly as husband and wife, but it may be proved by circumstances which show habitual sexual intercourse.

So in addition to having a divorce granted against the offending party they could also be arrested and prosecuted and face a $500.00 fine and/or up to 6 months in the county jail. And that may not even be the worst of it with the potential for an Alienation of Affection lawsuit out there. (It’s  actionable to sue someone for the breakdown of your marriage, a blog for another day).

In the words of Nancy Reagan, “Just Say No!”