21 Jul 16

Corporal Injury on a Child

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Corporal injury, also known as corporal punishment, is the use of physical force to discipline a child. While the definition simplifies how this act is described, New York’s laws are not as clearly defined. Exceptions between private and public schools, as well as who performs the act of discipline, is open to interpretation.

For instance, New York does not permit corporal punishment in public schools, but private schools may use this form of discipline with parental consent. The exception to this and within the household changes if the physical force is considered child abuse or assault and battery.

Is Corporal Injury on a Child Legal in New York?

Although corporal punishment is legal in the state, it does not mean that child services will not get involved in certain cases. One family might perceive spanking children as something that is perfectly normal. Another might deem an act of child discipline too harsh. The result can be a claim, sometimes arising during a child custody battle, where one parent considers the discipline of the other parent as abusive.

In the end, social workers are usually called in to make the judgment call on how the child was affected. The final determination can lead to the arrest of one parent and profoundly impact the entire family.

Moral arguments aside, there are some legal aspects to consider. One law holds that a child under 18 years of age can be legally neglected when her emotional, mental or physical condition is impaired. The law also holds that neglect occurs if there is imminent danger from a parent or caregiver who inflicts or allows unreasonable harm, which includes excessive corporal punishment.

Criminal Law on Corporal Injury

New York’s law on corporal injury is very broad and open to many degrees of interpretation. The criminal law, however, provides a narrower definition on what is justified use of physical force against children.

By law, a parent, guardian or any person who is entrusted with caring for and supervising another person who is under 21 is permitted to use physical force upon that person. This does not, however, include using deadly force. Further, the physical force must be reasonably necessary to maintain discipline or promote the positive welfare of the person.

Open to interpretation is how “reasonably” is applied to the rule of law regarding assault, battery and vicarious liability.

An assault charge may occur if the child or parent makes the claim against a teacher, school employee or the school. Even the threat or attempt of assault with the intent to inflict injury can lead to charges when paired with the alleged victim’s apprehension of injury.

Battery charges involve the intentional tort defined as unwanted touching. In this case the victim does not necessarily feel pain but the unwanted touching is something that a normal person would find offensive. Pulling on clothes or even grabbing a backpack could be defined as an act of battery.

In the case of vicarious liability, New York law permits a victim of corporal injury to sue an employer when an employee causes harm during the scope of the employee’s employment. For example, a teacher may use physical force to punish his student during class time or any other scope of duties. If so, the parents and the student might have a claim against the school, in addition to bringing charges against the teacher.

Work with a Skilled criminal attorney

If you are facing charges of corporal injury on a child, you need a proactive legal strategy. Guilt or innocence might not be enough to overcome the stigma of being accuse. Attorneys at Raiser & Kenniff, PC will use our years of prosecuting experience to build the best defense on your behalf.

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