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Criminal Law Blog

Domestic Violence: Child Abuse

February 19, 2016

“My kid did something wrong and I disciplined her for it: I spanked her. Now, I am charged with a domestic violence assault crime and the Department of Child Safety ( formerly Child Protective Services or CPS) is in my life. How can this have happened?”

Parents and guardians are allowed to discipline their children. Children in Arizona are defined as being under the age of 18 years old. Arizona Revised Statute 13-403 tells us that justification allowing the use of physical force includes reasonable and appropriate physical force upon the minor person when and to the extent reasonably necessary and appropriate to maintain discipline. This applies to a parent, guardian, teacher, or other person entrusted with the care and supervision of a minor person.

Reasonable and Appropriate Force

Who gets to determine what is reasonable and appropriate physical force? Simple: the judge at your trial or the jury if you are charged with felony child abuse. This broad definition can make preparing for a child abuse trial challenging.

Maybe you’ve heard the following phrase before: “it is fine to spank a child but you cannot leave a mark on them”. While this may be a guideline for child protective agencies, it is not accurate for criminal proceedings in Pima County. People often talk about leaving a mark on a child because that is some physical proof something (maybe not you) came into contact with the child and caused an injury, however slight. But the idea that you are guilty simply because there is a mark is not the whole story. It is best to talk to a criminal defense lawyer so they can assist you with your specific case. Each case is different, especially when it comes to child abuse cases, and there may be a justification to the accusations that a lawyer can help you uncover.

Dealing With Child Protective AgenciesChild protective agencies are another story. Unlike criminal proceedings where the standard to prove an individual’s guilt is quite high, (the beyond the reasonable doubt standard), it does not take much for these agencies to act. Be extra careful when talking to DCS or CPS because whatever you say can be used against you in any criminal proceedings. The difficulties people have when dealing with DCS or CPS can be minimized if you enlist the services of an experienced Tucson lawyer. Don’t let yourself be caught up in the frustration and confusion of a child abuse case alone!

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