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When Does Discipline Become Child Abuse in Connecticut?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Stamford, CT Criminal Defense AttorneySeveral years ago, a well-known NFL football player was arrested for child abuse because he used a tree branch as a switch to discipline his then four-year-old son. The man claimed he never intended to abuse or harm his son and was only disciplining him in the same manner his parents disciplined him when he was a child. But prosecutors said that by using a tree branch and hitting his son multiple times, the player’s actions went beyond mere discipline and were abusive. The case caused a national debate about what type of acts crosses the line between discipline and abuse.

Player Charged

According to prosecutors in the above case, the boy suffered bruises and cuts all over his body. The player was charged with felony child abuse. He eventually pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of misdemeanor assault and received two years’ probation, a fine of $4,000, and was ordered to perform 80 hours of community service. He was also suspended from the NFL for one year. Four years later, in an interview, the player admitted to sometimes using a belt to discipline the boy.

Connecticut Law on Child Discipline

In Connecticut, while there is a statute that addresses child abuse, there is no definitive law that addresses parents and corporal punishment. The current law can be subjective.  What one parent may believe to be “reasonable” discipline, another parent may find abhorrent. This means it can be up to a judge or jury to decide if a parent is facing child abuse charges using what the parent felt were reasonable methods.

Unfortunately, there is very little else to assist a judge or jury in determining whether an accused’s belief is reasonable. They will need to consider the facts and circumstances of the particular case in determining whether child abuse has occurred. Pertinent facts and circumstances include:

  • Age of the child

  • Whether the discipline was inflicted with a bare hand or with some other instrument (rope, belt, yardstick, ruler, or tree branch, etc.)

  • How many strikes were inflicted upon the child

  • The alleged disciplinary problem the accused was attempting to correct (for instance, roughly grabbing a toddler before she runs out into a busy street may be acceptable and reasonably whereas whipping that same child multiple times for not picking up her toys may not be seen as reasonable)

  • If the discipline left the child with cuts, bruises, or other marks, or if the child needed medical attention following the discipline

Contact a Stamford, CT Defense Lawyer

If you have been accused of child abuse after disciplining your child, you need experienced and aggressive legal representation. Just because you discipline your children in the same way you were disciplined as a child does not mean a judge or jury cannot find you guilty of abuse. You need a dedicated Fairfield County child abuse attorney advocating on your behalf. Call Law Offices of Daniel P. Weiner at 203-348-5846 to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:

https://www.jud.ct.gov/lawlib/law/childabuse.htm

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/25342741/adrian-peterson-uses-belt-discipline-son

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2014/09/12/the-details-of-adrian-petersons-arrest-are-disturbing/