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Published on 10/10/2023, 2:42:00 PM

Can I Spank My Child in Maryland? A Comprehensive Guide to Corporal Punishment in Maryland

Spanking or using physical force as a disciplinary method on children has been a topic of debate for decades. In Maryland, while the law does allow for some leeway when it comes to parental discipline, there are clear boundaries that must not be crossed.

This article aims to provide clarity on the legal stance of spanking in Maryland, the importance of understanding the thin line between discipline and abuse, and why seeking advice from a seasoned criminal defense attorney is crucial if you find yourself facing charges related to child discipline or child abuse.

The Child Discipline Exception in Maryland

Maryland law, while ensuring the protection of children's rights, does recognize a parent's or caretaker's right to use "reasonable" physical force for the purpose of discipline or safeguarding a child. This means that not all physical force used by a parent is automatically deemed abusive or illegal.

Day-care child abuse

In May of 2023 Govenor Wes Moore signed the Nonpublic Schools and Child Care Providers � Corporal Punishment � Prohibition which expressly prohibits the usage of corporal punishment in the daycare setting.

The thin line between discipline and assault

For instance, consider Jane, a mother of a hyperactive 7-year-old boy, Jack. One day, while playing in the park, Jack suddenly runs towards the busy road. Jane, out of sheer panic and instinct, grabs Jack and gives him a firm spanking to emphasize the dangers of his action. A Police Officer, who observes the spanking, Here, Jane's primary intention was to safeguard her child from potential harm.

This hypothetical demonstrates the fine line between a second degree assault and permitted child punishment.

What charges could I have for spanking my child?

If you use physical force to punish your child you could be charged with:

1. Second Degree Assault

Second Degree Assault is a misdemeanor criminal offense related to a battery. In the child discipline arena, typically a second degree assault is charged related to the unconsented touching (or the spanking) between the parent and the child.

Hitting a child is a second degree assault as a matter of law; hoever, the parental discipline exception may make the discipline exempt from legal conviction.

2. Child Abuse

Child abuse in Maryland comes in two degrees, First Degree Child abuse and Second Degree child abuse. Both are felonies.

Child abuse laws in Maryland distinguish between different degrees of abuse based on the severity and the nature of the actions. The difference between first and second-degree child abuse primarily revolves around the severity of the physical harm or the risk of harm to the child.

First degree child abuse requires a serious physical injury, while second degree child abuse just requires an injury - however slight.

Where Does Discipline End and Abuse Begin?

It's crucial to understand that while the law does provide a leeway for parents, it doesn't grant a carte blanche to inflict harm. The force should neither be a gratuitous attack nor a means simply to inflict pain. Any physical force that can be deemed "inhumane" or "cruel" is not protected under the child discipline exception.

Using the same example, if Jane had repeatedly hit Jack, leaving bruises or causing severe distress, this might cross the line from discipline to child abuse and assault, even if her intent was to teach him a lesson.

Factors Determining the "Reasonableness" of Force

The law sets out various parameters to ascertain the reasonableness of physical force. These include:

  • Age and physical and mental condition of the child.
  • The child's behavior leading to the disciplinary action.
  • Duration and extent of the physical contact.
  • Resulting injury or impact on the child, if any.

In Jane's situation, a court or jury would look into how hard she spanked Jack, the immediate aftermath of her action, and Jack's overall well-being to determine if her actions were reasonable.

Why You Should Consider Legal Counsel

While the boundaries between discipline and abuse might seem clear on paper, real-life scenarios are often shades of grey. This is where our firm steps in. Being accused of child abuse can be a harrowing experience, affecting personal relationships, employment, and overall mental well-being.

The FrizWoods Advantage

  • Experience: Our team of dedicated criminal defense attorneys have years of experience in handling cases related to child discipline and abuse.
  • Client Testimonials: Don't just take our word for it. Our reviews speak volumes about our dedication and the trust our clients place in us.
  • Personalized Strategy: Every case is unique. Our attorneys delve deep into the specifics of each case, ensuring the best possible defense strategy tailored for you.

In Conclusion: Know Your Rights and Seek Expert Advice

Understanding the nuances of the law is the first step in ensuring the safety and well-being of your child while also safeguarding your rights as a parent. If you find yourself in murky waters related to child discipline issues in Maryland, remember that expert help is just a click away.

Facing charges related to child discipline? Don't navigate these tricky waters alone. Reach out to us today for comprehensive legal support.