You obviously need to discipline your children occasionally, and many parents wonder if spanking a child is a crime. The short answer is that spanking is not illegal in the State of Texas – under most circumstances.
Even if you are charged with injury to a child, there is a defense related to the reasonable discipline of a child. The level of force involved, however, must be reasonable – not excessive.
Discipline of children is considered legally justified when the parent in question believes he or she used the amount of force necessary to discipline the child while also safeguarding and/or promoting the child’s welfare. In other words, your goal was to discipline the child for his or her own good. To be considered reasonable in nature, two factors must apply, and they are:
- If faced with similar situations, other reasonable people would come to similar conclusions regarding the level of physical discipline they would employ.
- The discipline doled out cannot be solely based on the parent’s individual beliefs regarding the discipline of children.
These are important elements because when the discipline you employ exceeds these boundaries, the level of force can be deemed an act of abuse and can garner third-degree felony charges.
When Does Spanking Cross a Line?
It is not uncommon for parents to resort to a light swat when disciplining children who are seriously misbehaving, and few people fault parents for such actions. Spanking and other forms of corporal punishment, however, can cross the line from reasonable punishment to child abuse, and this line is defined as bodily injury.
If the punishment you dole out leads to your child enduring bodily injury, you could face criminal charges. Bodily injury refers to:
- Physical pain
- Any physical impairment
Generally, this level of force is reached when a parent leaves a mark – such as a bruise, cut, or abrasion.
Naturally, a unique determination must be made in every case because extenuating factors can obviously apply. For example, some children bruise more easily than others, and some children engage in self-destructive behaviors that exacerbate the effects of spanking.
Use Restraint When Spanking
While it is your right to spank your child as a form of discipline, you obviously do not want to physically harm him or her. As such, there are some general limitations that you should impose on yourself – for your children’s sake and to ensure that you remain legally compliant. These include:
- Never strike a child above the waist
- Never use an implement to strike a child (your hand will suffice)
- Never use enough force to cause swelling or bruising, to leave a welt, or to require medication
Accused of Child Abuse? Get an Experienced Lawyer on Your Side.
You want to provide your children with a solid upbringing, and this may occasionally involve spanking them as a disciplinary measure. If your efforts to discipline your child lead to criminal charges, then Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a formidable Killeen criminal defense lawyer who will aggressively advocate on behalf of your rights and for your case’s best possible outcome.
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