These days, everyone knows it is against the law to beat a child, but many people worry that merely raising a hand to spank a child is a criminal offense. So is spanking legal or illegal? Where does the government draw the line on parent’s right to discipline in California? The bottom line is that spanking is legal, but it must fall under what the law defines as “reasonable discipline” and that is where many parents get in trouble.
Is Spanking Illegal in California? Not Usually
These days, child-rearing experts around the globe debate the merits of corporal punishment. But the law does not consider whether it is right or wrong, but merely sets limits regarding what is considered abuse and what is considered “reasonable discipline.”
While everyone will have their own personal definition of reasonable discipline, the only one that matters when it comes to the legal definition of child abuse is the one defined by the law, which states that the punishment must be warranted and not be excessive under the specific circumstances. The punishment must also not fall under the legal definition of child abuse, which occurs when a child is exposed to cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or an injury that results in a traumatic condition, including but not limited to punching, kicking or choking. In other words, a parent’s right to discipline in California is pretty wide open, as long as they do not use excessive force for a given situation.
The Blurry Line Defining a Parent’s Right to Discipline
Unfortunately, the definition of “reasonable discipline” leaves a lot of gray area between what is legal and what is illegal spanking, which is why it is so important to always work with a top child abuse defense attorney if you have been charged with a crime after punishing your child.
Circumstance is one of the most important factors when prosecutors determine: is spanking illegal or legal in California under the definition of reasonable discipline. In one case that went before the California Circuit Court of Appeals, it was determined that parents could use a wooden spoon to spank their child, even though it left bruises, because they tried multiple forms of non-violent punishment to curb their daughter’s bad behavior before turning to spanking.
What to do if You’re Charged with a Crime After Spanking
Child abuse cases should always be taken seriously and always require the expertise of a top lawyer. Aside from the risk of losing custody of your child or children, you could also face misdemeanor or felony charges. Those convicted of misdemeanor child abuse can be sentenced to up to one year in jail and a fine of $6,000, while those convicted of felony charges will face up to six years in prison. Keep in mind that this is time spent away from your child and the rest of your family.
While parents have a lot of leeway when it comes to disciplining their children in California, it’s important to recognize that it’s very possible to say something that may cross the line into child abuse. This is why you should never talk tot he police without your defense attorney present. If you have been accused of child abuse, Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation.