Can I discipline or spank my child?
Yes. In Colorado, you are allowed to spank your child to discipline or teach.
You are allowed to use an amount of force that is reasonable to maintain discipline or promote welfare. Basically, you can use force to enforce rules and you can use force to punish so that the child learns a lesson.
BUT, the amount of force must be considered reasonably necessary and appropriate by a jury. So, if a child is very young or small or the child’s misconduct is minor or the degree of harm is great, then a jury might find the force unnecessary or inappropriate. If the facts show that you as parent lost control leading to greater force being used, then it will be hard to explain.
As with other justifiable force defenses, the amount of force must reasonable. This is often interpreted as the least amount of force to achieve the goal.
CRS §18-1-703(1)(a) – Parental Discipline Defense
The use of physical force upon another person which would otherwise constitute an offense is justifiable and not criminal where a parent, guardian or other person entrusted with the care and supervision of a minor or incompetent person, and a teacher or other person entrusted with the care and supervision of a minor, may use reasonable and appropriate physical force upon the minor or incompetent person when and to the extent it is reasonably necessary and appropriate to maintain discipline or promote the welfare of the minor or incompetent person.
The news often has stories of children misbehaving and many people respond that it is the parent’s fault for not disciplining the child. Then there is the story about a parent punishing their child and getting arrested. Currently, former Oklahoma and current Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is being investigated for using too much force when disciplining his child. How is a parent supposed to know what the law allows?
I have read that Adrian Peterson disciplined his child the way his parents disciplined him. I read that he initially verbally scolded the child, but the child repeated the behavior. I read that he then sat the child down and calmly explained that he was going to discipline the child. He then struck the child with a switch repeatedly. It appears the biggest reason why this is potentially a crime is the resulting injury is greater than some would feel appropriate. [I have not seen any photos and I do have not read any police reports, so I cannot comment specifically on this case. My statements here are based on news reports that are often inaccurate and incomplete.]
Important Information about Child Abuse in Colorado:
Just say "I want a lawyer" - there is nothing you can tell the police today that you cannot tell them tomorrow with a lawyer.
Child Abuse in Boulder and all of Colorado can be a misdemeanor or an extremely serious felony. A conviction will stay on your record forever. You could be placed on a Department of Social Services list that prevents you from working in child-care, adopting, coaching or teaching. You should hire a qualified child abuse defense lawyer immediately. Do not trust the prosecution or police to prove your innocence.
If you are accused of child abuse or suspect you might be accused of child abuse, you should immediately contact an experienced child abuse defense attorney. You should not speak to police or prosecutors without an attorney. You should not discuss the facts with anyone but your attorney. Call me.