California law gives parents discretion and autonomy to decide how they are going to discipline their children, however there is a limit for that discipline. The law draws a limit to a physical discipline to a children and punishes act of injury or cruel and unusual punishment on a child. Thus, the California Penal Code 273(d) defined the crime of child abuse as prohibition to any conduct that could lead a physical harm at the children.
Holding a child arm to leaves a mark.
Beating a child with a metal belt and it leaves mark and bruises.
Using rules to hit the child's butt to discipline him/her.
In order for someone being convicted of child abuse, the prosecution must prove the following essential elements and facts of the crime:
- The defendant willfully inflicted cruel and unusual punishment to a child.
- The injury caused the child to suffer a traumatic physical condition.
- When the defendant acted, (he/she) was not reasonably disciplining a child.1
The first element that prosecution needs to prove to initiate the child abuse charges is that there was a willful action of the defendant, meaning, there was an intention to do something on purpose, even if there was no intent to hurt someone, gain advantage or break the law.
The evidence necessary to proof, is that the person, the defendant, willfully committed a conduct that by its nature will probably directly result in injury the child. The prosecution does not need to prove a specific intent to inflict a specific harm. However, it must show that the defendant intentionally engaged in an act that would produce detrimental consequences to the children and has punished the child in a cruel or inhuman manner.
Moreover, it requires an intentional act and knowledge of facts sufficient to lead a reasonable person to realize that the act by its nature will probably and directly result in the application of physical force against another.2
Additionally, the term of act wilfully is when the defendant does the touching willingly or purposely, however it does not mean that the individual intent to act an unlawful conduct or hurt someone else.
1 CALCRIM 822
Joseph was frustrated with his 2 year-old son, Joseph grabs his arm and twisted it, his act is willful, since at the moment he grabbed the child he could know that the conduct could physically harm his son.
In this scenario, Joseph could be guilty of child abuse.
Cruel or Inhuman Punishment
The statute established the crime of child abuse as willfully inflicted cruel and unusual punishment to a child. The cruel or inhuman punishment is defined as disposed to inflict pain in a nasty manner or acts without pity, kindness or tenderness. In California, the conduct of punching, shaking a child, hitting, slapping, kicking, pushing, throwing any object at a child, choking or burning a child could lead the someone of a child abuse conviction.
Furthermore, in California, the parents have full authority with their children. So, you have a right to discipline and spanking your children, so long as the physical discipline is not reasonable, unnecessary or excessive. If the conduct of physical discipline was by means of discipline and reasonable, you could have a defense on your case.
Traumatic physical condition.
In California, traumatic condition is determined as a wound or other serious bodily injury, or minor injury, caused by the direct uses of physical force of the defendant, The courts considered traumatic conditions even if a minor injury occurred, as a cut, blow or other impact, typically one in which the skin is cut or broken, bruise, broken bone, sprain and internal bleeding
In order for someone being convicted of child abuse, the traumatic condition must be the result of the injury committed by the defendant if the traumatic was the consequence of the injury, the injury was direct and substantial cause of the traumatic condition and the traumatic condition would not have happened without the injury.
Child as a victim
In California, a child is considered any person under the age of eighteen (18) years old. A person is considered one year older after midnight on his/her birthday, after at 12:01 am the day of the birthday.
Example: Karen is 17 year-old teenager, one day she came back home drunk and her dad got mad at her. Suddenly, her dad grabbed her arm and leaves visible marks on her arm.
In this case, Karen's dad could be guilty of child abuse, since Karen is considered a child for the purpose of this crime.
When the defendant acted, (he/she) was not reasonably disciplining a child.
In California Laws, the parents have authority and discretionary power to discipline their children, however, there is a limit for that action. The prosecution must prove that the defendant's action was over the limits of disciplining a child. There are difference between discipline and injure a child. If the parents hurt or physical harm a child, they could be guilty of child abuse.
Penalties for child abuse.
The offense of child abuse can be charged as either misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant's criminal background. This is called wobbler in California, the prosecution has an option to charge the defendant with either misdemeanor or felony.
A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine not exceeding six thousand dollars ($6,000) or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or misdemeanor probation, or the fine, imprisonment and probation.
However, if someone was charged as a felony, the penalties could be aggravated depending on the facts of the case, a felony is punishable by a fine not exceeding six thousand dollars ($6,000) or by imprisonment in county jail not from two (2) years to four (4) years, and a felony probation, or both fine, imprisonment and the probation.
Three Strikes Law
In California there is an aggravate rule that it is called three strikes law, in which the judge has discretion to determine to increase or diminish the conviction depending on the defendant's record. For instance, if a defendant receive a "strike" on his record, by that is convicted with a felony and then after a while he receives another sentence with felony, the judge could give twice of the regular sentence in the conviction. And if the defendant gets three "strikes", he or she might give a 25 years of imprisonment in a California State prison.
A child abuse is a wobbler in California Law, meaning that a person could face a felony or a misdemeanor conviction, if a person is convicted with this type of crime, the conviction is going to be on the person's criminal records. If you are looking for a job and the employer does a criminal background check and there is a domestic violence offense register, it is likely that the employer won't hire someone with a misdemeanor or felony background. If you have been charged with this offense, you should promptly look for a Lawyer. San Diego Criminal Attorney has a great deal of success defending our clients and we can help you build legal defenses that it could be use to contest these types of charges. If you would like more information, please contact our successful staff to help you with your legal problems.
To contest the charges of child abuse, San Diego Criminal Attorney would be able to use the following legal defenses:
- Wrongfully accused.
Under the rules of Californa Law, it is too easy for a victim falsely accuse another of committing this crime, sometimes the cause of action is out of anger, revenge or jealousy. However, San Diego Criminal Attorney know how to protect its clients from wrongfully accusations. If this is your case, contact an attorney promptly.
- The traumatic condition was not caused by the parent's conduct.
Usually, children they play a lot, jump, run, fall and can get hurt from playing and being a kid. In some cases, you did not commit any conduct that could physically harm your children and you get prosecuted anyways.
To defense those types of injustice, San Diego Criminal Attorney has experience in building strong defense for its clients, if that was your case, please contact your team and we can help you to diminish your charges or even dismiss the case.
- Right to discipline
In California, as explained above, the parents have full authority with their children. So, you have a right to discipline and spanking your kid, so long as the physical discipline is not reasonable, unnecessary or excessive. If the conduct of physical discipline was by means of discipline and reasonable, you could have a defense on your case.
- The injury was an accident
Sometimes, the child's physical harm is caused out of an accident, in which the parents did not intentionally harmed the child, as burning your child while cooking, or slamming the door on the child's face. If the parents had no criminal intent to cause injury or harm to your child and the actions were not negligent, you could be excuse of child abuse, if the defense could prove that the defendant did not act with negligent or criminal intent.