Corporal Injury On A Child – Penal Code Section 273d
This has to do with individuals disciplining their children and going too far. I was recently talking to a prosecutor about this. I had my client slapping his daughter after she threw water in his face, and basically, they were going back and forth. Nobody really got hurt. There were no injuries when the police got there, yet they filed that particular charge against my client along with another domestic violence-related offense. I was saying, I’ve been doing this for twenty-five years, I don’t see a lot of cases where parents are disciplining their children by using physical force, and the prosecutors are filing those cases. I do see some.
To me the dividing line is murky because technically, anytime you hit somebody in an angry manner and you’re not defending yourself, that’s a battery. If it’s in a domestic situation, children, husband/wife, brother/sister – whatever the domestic situation is – then it’s going to be a domestic battery. It’s interesting that we don’t see a lot of those and I think it’s because the prosecutors realize that a lot of people do discipline their kids by using physical force against them.
I think where the dividing line is where I’ve seen it, is when people go too far. In other words, I had a client who punched his daughter in the eye causing her to have a black eye, causing her nose to bleed – that’s not going to work. Obviously, if the police get called out on that – that’s another issue – the police actually have to be called out on it. If they don’t find out about it, then obviously, there’s no case. But if the police are called out and they see that a father has punched his daughter in the eye, then obviously they’re going to arrest the father and prosecute that case. It’s probably going to be a $50,000 bail. When it gets to the prosecutors, they’re probably not going to have much sympathy under those circumstances.
Of course, there are other cases where there’s a scenario and it’s very difficult to say, what is the fair thing to do? Yes, there’s a letter of the law when it comes to these corporal injuries on a child cases, which is basically the prosecutors and legislature say, you’ve hit your child. You’ve gone too far. We’re now going to criminally prosecute you for that so we can protect your child and because it’s a crime to do that.
But this whole dividing line is very murky and it really just seems to be zeroed in on reasonableness and how good your attorney is. Sometimes they file a case where it should be filed because the person’s gone too far and that case is going to be resolved however it’s going to be resolved in Los Angeles depending on how good your attorney is and whether factors can be brought to bear, like your criminal record, any prior issues like this and the level of the injury – why this violence occurred. All of these things are going to be factored in.
But, when we’re assessing reasonableness, we’re looking at what happened, why it happened and is society going to tolerate that? That’s a really difficult thing because some parents may same, I’m not going to discipline my child by using physical force. That’s not the way I do it. On the other hands, other parents will say, absolutely, I’m going to physically smack my kids, spank them, whatever I think is necessary because that’s the way my parents did it for me. And yet there’s probably a middle group who’s not really sure what they’re going to do, and then all of a sudden something happens and they just react.
So, there is no dividing line. There is no clear demarcation, but I think the bottom line is – if the case is handled right – most of the time the prosecutors are going to give you the benefit of the doubt – if you’re spanking your child and you’re not being unreasonably forceful about it. But obviously, it’s never a good idea. If they find out that you’ve used some sort of physical force against one of your children, they’re going to do something about it. They consider it, who else is going to protect these children but us? If we don’t do something, this is their family, their family’s not going to protect them. The wife’s not going to do something when the husband is hitting the child with a belt or whatever the form of violence in, then you know what, we’re going to have to step in, and sometimes the intermediary between that is the Department of Child Services and they’re the ones where a lot of these corporal injuries and corporal injuries to a child come about – because in Los Angeles, the Department of Child Service, DCSFS, has lot of power. So, when they come in, they can pretty much do whatever that want. If people don’t’ cooperate and agree with them and do what they say, they’ll call the police out to back them up and the police will back them up all the way. Now you’ve got the police there and you’ve got yourself in a very difficult situation.
So, I always say whenever children are involved, whenever rights could potentially be taken away, you’ve got to get an attorney involved – one like me who’s been doing this for a long time and knows how to handle these cases – and they can help you make the right decisions, because in these cases where your children are involved and you feel like you should be able to discipline then, and now you have to do that juxtaposition against corporal injury on a child and this Penal Code 273d. If you look at the Penal Code section, if you’ve hit your child because you got mad at them because they did something wrong, you’ve violated a Penal Code section. You’re looking at custody. You’re looking at a conviction. You’re looking at your parental rights being interfered with. There’s a whole slew of things.
So, you better have a seasoned criminal defense attorney like me by your side who can help you make the right decisions moving forward so you can do damage control and get yourself out of the situation.
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