Do Parents who use Force to Discipline their Children in Florida Run the risk of committing a Crime?
In Florida, corporal punishment of the child is legal, lawful and expected from the parent. Corporal punishment is what most people refer to as a spanking. The legislatures of Florida have laws on the books that allow “spanking” of the child, to discipline the child. The Bible specifically states: “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” So, the Florida Legislatures, along with God, have recognized that “spanking” of a child is not only recommended but required from the parent, to properly raise and rear the child. So, now that you understand the Law and the Privilege that exist in the Laws of Florida, to spank or use corporal punish on a child, you have to ask when a spanking becomes unlawful.
Florida Law does not allow or prohibits a parent or guardian from inflicting severe physical or emotional trauma on a child and for good reason. But what is severe physical trauma? The answer to that question is fact specific. When a parent uses corporal punishment on a child in Florida the use of a weapon is prohibited. The use of a bat, club, metal object, rug beater, or any other object that can cause severe physical harm is outlawed. What about a slap from a hand?
The location of the slap is very important. Most cases where a child is slapped on the rear end by an open hand will not lead to criminal prosecution of the parent or guardian. A closed fist blow to the child’s face or stomach will likely lead to a criminal arrest because of the physical harm it may or does cause the child. Choking a child may or may not lead to a criminal arrest.
As you can imagine, placing your hands around a child’s neck and choking them will lead to criminal arrest and prosecution because it is severe physical harm as only a few pounds of pressure can break the bones of a child’s neck or damage the child’s vessel in their neck. But there are many court cases in Florida that have found through the Appellate process that when a child chokes due to the parent forcing them to eat, forcing food down their throats, no criminal action may occur.
What about bruising or welts. DCF will always review an act of child abuse in Florida. If you or loved one is being investigated by Law Enforcement Officers or Sheriffs for child abuse or child negligent DCF will be involved. DCF will always include in their report, the sight of bruising or welts if found on a child suspected of abuse. The courts are split on how they deal with welts and bruising in child abuse cases. Florida Appellate Courts have reasoned that normal welts are a natural result of a spanking. Bruising may or may not be the natural results of a spanking. The size and location of the welts or bruising, the duration of how long the welts or bruising has been noticed, and how many welts and bruises are found are the key factors or elements for the courts in child abuse cases. A black and blue eye is more likely than not, going to have criminal sanctions, as oppose to a single bruise on the rear end from corporal punishment. Multiple welts across the torso, back or legs caused by a strap will likely cause a criminal prosecution but not an isolated welt on the rear end caused by a belt. The age of the child is also very important. A new born baby or child under the age of three years old should never be administered corporal punishment according to the cases. The appellate courts have look at age as a determining factor. Obviously a slap on the hand for the three year child who throws the cereal bowl across the room may get attention, but not a spanking with a belt is what the courts have said.
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