The state of California allows parents to discipline their children with physical force. However, there are some limits on the amount of force that can be used. Individuals who inflict excessive amounts of harm could be charged under California Penal Code Section 273(d): Child Abuse / Inflicting Physical Punishment on a Child.
Understanding the legal line between disciplining a child and child abuse can be difficult. The Simmrin Law Group can provide information about the definition of child abuse and penalties for a child abuse conviction, as well as defenses for individuals accused of abusing their children.
California’s Definition of Child Abuse
The exact nature of child abuse can be difficult to understand. Many people confuse child abuse with child endangerment, which is similar in many respects. PC 273(d) defines child abuse / inflicting physical punishment on a child as:
Willfully Inflicting Inhuman or Cruel Injury or Punishment
Individuals should not be charged with child abuse for accidental injuries. Punishments must be purposefully carried out for PC 273(d) to apply. Additionally, cases involving reasonable discipline should not be considered child abuse.
That Causes a Traumatic Physical Condition
The law defines traumatic physical conditions as:
- Other Bodily Injuries
These bodily injuries may be serious or minor. They must be the result of a purposeful application of force.
On a Child
All individuals under the age of 18 are considered children by PC 273(d). This means that individuals can be charged with child abuse for intentionally harming children up to the age of 18.
Child Abuse Penalties in Los Angeles
The court system in Los Angeles can charge PC 273(d) as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The exact penalties will vary based on the circumstances of each case. As with all domestic violence cases, the penalties for a child abuse conviction can be very severe. Generally, those convicted of child abuse can expect to face:
Misdemeanor Child Abuse Penalties
- Fines: Up to $6,000
- Jail Time: Up to 1 Year
Felony Child Abuse Penalties
- Fines: Up to $6,000
- Jail Time: Up to 6 Years
Note that individuals may have an additional 4 years added to their sentence if they were previously convicted of felony child abuse.
Probation and Child Abuse Convictions in California
In some cases, courts may sentence individuals to probation after a child abuse conviction. The court will set the conditions for either misdemeanor or felony probation. Individuals sentenced to child abuse probation must usually:
- Obey a Protective Order
- Complete a Child Abuser’s Treatment Program
The probationary period usually lasts at least 3 years. Individuals on probation may also be forced to undergo random drug tests if they committed child abuse while using drugs or drinking alcohol.
Defenses for Child Abuse Charges
Individuals facing child abuse charges do have legal options for their defense. Working with a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles can improve your odds of beating a charge under PC 273(d). Your lawyer could argue:
You Did Not Intend to Harm Your Child
Child abuse involves intentionally causing harm to a child. Accidently striking a child should not result in a child abuse conviction in California.
You Were Reasonably Punishing Your Child
Parents in California have the right to discipline their children. As long as you do not use unreasonable levels of force, you may be able to avoid a child abuse conviction.
You Were Falsely Accused of Child Abuse
Sometimes, false charges of child abuse are brought against a parent. This often occurs during divorce proceedings, when one party is willing to try anything to secure custody of their children. These false accusations can be easier to beat if you have professional help on your side.
Help Handing a Child Abuse Charge in Los Angeles
Taking on charges under California Penal Code Section 273(d): Child Abuse / Inflicting Physical Punishment on a Child on your own can lead to high fines and years of time spent in jail. You can reach the Simmrin Law Group by calling (310) 997- 4688 or by completing our online contact form.
Make sure you have professional help on your side by taking advantage of a FREE case evaluation with one of our defense lawyers.