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 it illegal to spank your child in California? Where does the government draw the line on parent’s right to discipline? 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. Many claim that when a parent responds to a problem with violence, children believe that it is reasonable to turn to violence when they encounter a problem. But the law does not consider whether it is right or wrong and in fact, upholds a parent’s rights to punish their child as they see fit, though the state does set limits regarding what is considered abuse and what is considered “reasonable.”
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 California 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 any type of injuries that result in a traumatic condition, including but not limited to punching, kicking or choking. In other words, a parent’s right to discipline is pretty wide open, as long as they do not use excessive force for a given situation.
The Blurry Line Defining Excessive Force
Unfortunately, the definition of “reasonable discipline” in California leaves a lot of gray area between whether or not it is illegal to spank your child, 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 California prosecutors determine if it is illegal to spank your child in a given situation. In one case that went before the California Circuit Court of Appeals, it was determined that a parent 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 penalties that can include up to six years in state 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 an unruly juvenile, it’s important to recognize that it’s very possible to say something that the police may use as evidence of child abuse in your case, especially if your child was left with a visible injury. This is why you should never talk tot he police without your defense attorney present. For more information on when it is illegal to spank your child in California, please call Peter M. Liss. You can contact his office for a free initial consultation by calling (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024.