Can I Be Arrested for Spanking My Child?
Unfortunately, messy divorces between parents can sometimes involve accusations of child abuse that stem from spanking or other corporal punishment. While the US Supreme Court has upheld a parent’s fundamental right to raise their child as they see fit, which includes reasonable acts of corporal punishment, still, this can be an extremely confusing topic to parents and others, sometimes even leading children to call 911 after they have been subject to certain types of discipline, claiming that they have been the victims of child abuse.
Similar to other states, New York does not criminalize spanking your child, and allows for a certain amount of corporal discipline, within limits, carving out exceptions for what would otherwise be considered child abuse or battery. However, things can become confusing when you look at other areas of the law, especially those that address child neglect, and factor in an increasing number of expert opinions indicating that physical punishment not only does not work in terms of discipline, but can actually place children at risk of developing poor mental health and school performance, and even violent behavior in adulthood.
The Laws in New York & Expert Opinion
New York law states that a parent, guardian, or someone else who is entrusted with the care of someone who is under the age of 21 or an incompetent person “for a special purpose,” such as a teacher, may use physical force (but not deadly force) upon them “to the extent that [they] reasonably believe it is necessary to maintain discipline” or “promote the welfare” of that minor. However, bringing in other areas of state law can confuse the issue significantly. For example, New York’s Family Court Law is designed to protect children from injury and mistreatment and safeguard their emotional, mental, and physical well-being. The law allows the state to intervene against the wishes of a parent on behalf of a child in order to ensure that the child’s needs are met, and defines a “neglected child” as a minor under the age of 18 whose emotional, mental, or physical condition has been impaired or is danger of becoming impaired due to a parent or someone else responsible for their care failing to “exercise a minimum degree of care,” including by inflicting “excessive corporal punishment” (amongst a number of other actions).
As a result, the issue of when the right to discipline your child turns into something that involves criminal charges can become confusing, especially given that many studies have shown that physical punishment, including spanking, can lead to mental health problems and physical injuries for children, including aggression and antisocial behavior. If a growing body of research has demonstrated that spanking and other forms of corporal punishment can pose serious risks to children, these expert opinions can absolutely affect what the courts consider to be a reasonable use of force and excessive corporal punishment.
Criminal Charges In New York Criminal Defense Attorney Phillip J. Murphy
If you have questions or concerns, or are facing criminal charges in New York, you need to retain experienced legal representation as soon as possible. Contact the office of New York criminal defense attorney Phillip J. Murphy today for a free consultation; with more than 30 years of experience defending clients accused of a number of crimes here in New York, we are prepared to aggressively defend your rights.