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Defending Against Physical Child Abuse Charges

Parents have the right to discipline their children as they see fit – to a certain extent. A parent who is accused of willfully causing injury that results in a "traumatic condition," or is accused of "cruel and inhuman corporal punishment" of a child may face criminal charges and up to six years in state prison under California Penal Code section 273d.

If you have been informally accused of physically abusing your child or are facing formal criminal charges, your immediate action is required to protect your rights and future. Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners can offer experienced and aggressive legal representation in the face of these sensitive matters. With a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney from our firm to protect your constitutional rights and custodial rights, you can feel confident that you will not be swept away by an investigation and criminal case by overzealous police officers and prosecutors.

You have the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. You have the right to due process. Do not let your rights be infringed upon in the name of justice. In the face of false or exaggerated domestic violence or child abuse allegations, a competent attorney can work to make sure your side of the story is properly represented.

Understanding California Penal Code Section 273d

The basic act of physical child abuse is covered under California Penal Code section 273d, specifically pertaining to corporal punishment. It is important to note that corporal punishment, or physical punishment, of a child is in itself not a crime, but "cruel and inhuman" corporal punishment is against the law. Penal Code section 273d specifically states:

Any person who willfully inflicts upon a child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or an injury resulting in a traumatic condition is guilty of a felony…

Looking at this section, one can see that there are three key aspects to a criminal charge of physical child abuse. The first applies to the willful infliction of punishment or injury. A person must willfully inflict such injury upon a child for an act to be considered child abuse, meaning accidents should not be viewed as illegal under Penal Code section 273d. The second involves cruel or inhuman corporal punishment. While a light spanking may be considered reasonable punishment of a child in certain circumstances, the court is looking for "cruel or inhuman" acts of physical punishment. The third issue is an injury resulting in a traumatic condition. The definition of "traumatic condition" is somewhat open to interpretation and may be considered any visible injury, minor to severe. If a spanking caused welts and/or bleeding, this may be interpreted as a traumatic condition.

An extremely fine line exists between what may be considered reasonable discipline and what may be viewed as physical child abuse. California courts and juries must consider the specific facts of a case to make a determination of guilt in these cases, including the severity of injury allegedly inflicted, the alleged act of punishment or injury itself and the circumstances surrounding the event.

The delicate nature of child abuse charges and the potential interpretations of Penal Code section 273d make your lawyer's skill and approach all the more impactful. To discuss potential defense strategies and the steps that can be taken to protect your freedom, please do not hesitate to call a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at our firm. We have more than seven decades of legal experience to apply to our clients' cases and are prepared to go up against the toughest prosecutors to protect our clients' rights.

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