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When Does Disciplining a Child Cross the Line into Abuse in Texas?

 Posted on June 12, 2020 in Criminal Defense

Tarrant County child abuse defense attorney

The way that parents raise their children is evolving with each new generation. One issue that has become especially controversial in recent years is corporal punishment or using physical force such as spanking as a form of discipline. Whatever your personal opinions are regarding corporal punishment, it is important to understand how Texas law differentiates between punishment and abuse. Individuals who physically punish children in a way that crosses the line into abuse can face criminal charges for domestic assault, injury to a child, and other crimes against children.   

Definition of Family Violence According to the Texas Family Code

Texas law defines “family violence” as actions that are intended to result in bodily injury, physical harm, or assault. Abuse is defined in the Texas Family Code as:

  • Injuring a child in a way that causes “significant harm” or causing the child to be in fear of being significantly harmed

  • Causing psychological harm to a child that results in noticeable impairment to the child’s development or functioning

  • Sexual conduct that is harmful to the child’s well-being or violates the Texas Penal Code

  • Producing or permitting pornographic depictions of a child

  • Using controlled substances in a way that results in harm to a child

There is a wide range of punishments for intentionally causing bodily harm to a child. An individual convicted of child abuse can face a state jail felony up to a first-degree felony depending on the severity of harm caused to the child and other factors.

Understanding “Reasonable Discipline”

Corporal punishment is not against the law in Texas. The Texas Penal Code states that the use of non-deadly force against a child is justified if the person using force:

  • Is the child’s parent or stepparent or is acting “in loco parentis,” meaning he or she is acting in the place of a parent 

  • Reasonably believes that the use of physical force is necessary to discipline or protect the child

Parents and individuals acting in place of parents have a legal right to discipline their children as long as the discipline is reasonable and does not cause significant harm to the child. If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense after using reasonable force to discipline a child, speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Do not allow police to interrogate you without your attorney present.

Contact a Dallas Child Abuse Defense Attorney

Being accused of domestic violence or abuse is a serious allegation. An individual who is convicted of causing bodily injury to a child can face major criminal consequences including significant jail time. For help building a strong defense against allegations of domestic assault, injury to a child, or other child-related offenses, contact The Crowder Law Firm, P.C. Schedule a free, confidential consultation with one of our seasoned Collin County criminal defense lawyers by calling our office today at 214-544-0061.






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