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California’s Stance on Spanking

By San Diego Attorney on March 11, 2021

No one ever said raising a child was easy, and parents are often hounded with hundreds of parenting tips from friends, family, and the media. One of the many debates parents hear involves punishment, particularly spanking. From the legal standpoint, here are several sides to what a court will consider a parent’s right to discipline a child and when it crosses into abuse.

How Is Abuse Defined in California?

Child abuse is defined under California Penal Code 273(d) as “willfully” inflicting “cruel or inhuman corporal punishment” upon a child or injuring a child in such a way that it leads to “a traumatic condition.” Abuse is typically charged against parents who willingly and purposely harm their children, but it can also be charged against other family members, daycare attendants, teachers, and other adults who harm children.

These actions must meet the court’s standards of “cruel or inhuman corporal punishment,” which can vary between judges and juries. In general, abuse charges would not apply to accidental injuries, such as a child breaking his arm while playing football with his dad, but accidental injuries can lead to a charge of neglect if the parent does not respond accordingly to the child’s injuries.

Is Spanking Legal in California?

In California, the punishment must fit the crime. As such, spanking is considered legal if it is justified for the situation and not excessive. Courts will often look at the events leading up to the spanking to determine if it is justified. For example, let’s say a child acts out and her parents try to talk to her, ground her, take away her cell phone, or impose other non-physical punishments. If the child continues to act out and defies her parents, a spanking may be justified.

Courts will only step if the spanking goes beyond what is reasonable. If a parent continuously spanks a child with a belt until he is bruised or bleeding, then it can be considered abuse. In these instances, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced lawyer. The prosecution must clearly demonstrate how your actions are abusive, and there are several defenses a lawyer can employ on your behalf.

Why You Need a Lawyer

If you are charged with child abuse, you can be convicted of a felony and sentenced to two, four, or six years in a state prison and/or required to pay a fine of up to $6,000. You may also lose your parental custody rights, be served a criminal protective order, and the California Child Protective Services may step in if both parents are convicted of child abuse. Deportation is a possibility for anyone here illegally, on a visa, or who has a Green Card.

Whether these charges are the result of a misunderstanding, accidental injury, or false accusations, you should talk to a San Diego criminal defense lawyer at jD LAW immediately. Our legal team can review your charges in a free case evaluation and develop a strategy to have your charges reduced or dropped. There are many sides to these cases, and you will want to have a board-certified criminal law specialist on your side.

Do not hesitate with the future of your family. Call jD LAW at (760) 630-2000 today.

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