How Disciplining a Child Could Lead to Criminal Charges

Disciplining a child can help them learn from mistakes and prevent them from continuing a pattern of bad behavior. Some forms of punishment could involve physical contact. Unfortunately, if a parent disciplines their child by using some type of violence against them, they could be accused of malicious punishment of a child.

How Is Malicious Punishment of a Child Defined?

In Minnesota, it is illegal for a person responsible for caring for a child to intentionally engage in forms of discipline that are considered a use of "unreasonable force" or "excessive under the circumstances."

For instance, say a father told his son to put some tools away in a shed. When the father sees that the boy didn't organize the tools by height, he gets angry and slaps the child across the face, leaving a bruise. The father's actions could get him arrested and charged for malicious punishment of a child.

Although the above example is of a father and son, the law provides that any of the following could be accused of committing this type of offense:

  • Parent
  • Legal guardian
  • Caretaker

What Are the Penalties for Malicious Punishment of a Child?

Under Minnesota Statute § 609.377, malicious punishment of a child can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. The level depends on the specifics of the circumstances.

Generally, it is a gross misdemeanor to intentionally and excessively discipline a child in a way that would cause bodily harm. In Minnesota, bodily harm is defined as causing injury, illness, or physical impairment. If a person is convicted of this offense, they could be sentenced to up to 1 year in jail and/or fined up to $3,000.

Two circumstances exist that cause the penalties for causing bodily harm to a child to increase. First, if the accused had previously been convicted of this or a related offense within 5 years of completing their sentence. Second, if the alleged victim was a child under 4 years of age (this a felony offense). In both instances, the conviction penalties include a prison sentence of up to 5 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

A person could also be charged with felony malicious punishment of a child for causing substantial bodily harm. According to Minnesota Statute § 609.02, substantial bodily harm is that which causes temporary but substantial disfigurement or impairment of a body part or organ. It can also result from causing a fracture of a body part. If convicted, the person could face a maximum prison term of 5 years and/or a fine of $10,000.

Punishing a child and causing great bodily injury (harm that could result in death or permanent disfigurement or impairment) also results in a felony charge. The conviction penalties include up to 10 years in prison and/or up to $20,000 in fines.

If you've been accused of a crime in Minneapolis or the surrounding areas, call Brockton D. Hunter P.A. at (612) 979-1112 or contact us online. We'll provide aggressive defense to fight your charges.