In recent years, some states have started banning corporal punishment in the classroom, while some states still allow it. This has sparked discussion in the medical, psychological, and legal field about the consequences and legality of corporal punishment in general. All 50 states currently still legalize some forms of corporal punishment in the home, although not everyone agrees with this. While different parents have different views on the use of corporal punishment, the question arises as to whether it is legal to spank a child, and how much force is too much when physically disciplining a child.
The question of whether you can spank a child (or use other forms of corporal punishment/physical discipline) is answered by Minnesota law. Minnesota law states that reasonable force may be used on a child without their consent when used by a parent, legal guardian, teacher, or caretaker to restrain or correct the child.
While the law authorizes corporal punishment, a parent can cross that line between reasonable force and excessive corporal punishment. In Minnesota, the law prohibits “malicious punishment” of a child, which is defined as intentional actions of unreasonable force or cruel discipline that are excessive under the circumstances. So, when does spanking turn into cruel discipline that is excessive?
The Minnesota Supreme Court gives some guidance as to what is excessive. In a 2008 case the court ruled that simply inflicting pain is not enough to show excessive force–the signs must be observable and substantial. Otherwise, a lot of reasonable corporal punishment could be illegal.
However, when punishment is not really “correcting” a child’s behavior, and the spanking results in bruising or other observable injury, this can be considered unreasonable, and therefore excessive. The courts will look at the age, height, and weight of a child, as well as the seriousness of whatever the child did to make this determination.
As always, issues with child abuse and permitted physical punishment are nuanced. If you are being investigated for malicious punishment of a child or are facing charges, reach out to one of our attorneys here at Brandt Kettwick Defense.