January 11, 2023 By Bryan Powell

Is Spanking a Child Illegal in California?

child spanking

Under California law, spanking your child, or using some other reasonable form of corporal punishment,  isn’t necessarily illegal. However, physical punishment inflicted on a child should not be excessive and cause injury. If the punishment you inflict causes injury to your child, there is a good chance that you could be charged with child abuse under PC 273d of the California Penal Code.

Therefore, unreasonably or excessively spanking your child is illegal in California because it can lead to child abuse accusations, which could result in the authorities opening an investigation and ultimately filing criminal charges against you.

According to California’s child abuse laws under PC 273d, child abuse occurs when: 

  • an individual willfully inflicts on a child cruel or inhumane corporal punishment, or
  • an individual injury on a child that results in a wound or traumatic condition

 A willfully inflicted injury is one that was done purposefully. However, it does not necessarily mean that the individual intended to cause injury or break any laws. A traumatic condition refers to a  physical injury resulting from direct physical force.

California child abuse charges filed under PC 273d may be either a misdemeanor or felony.

If the child abuse charge is a misdemeanor and you are convicted, you could face up to a one-year jail sentence and fine of up to $6,000.

When the child abuse charge is a felony and you are convicted, you could face up to a six-year jail sentence and fine of up to $6,000.

Probation is also possible in all child abuse cases. When someone is convicted of child abuse and is placed on probation, punishment will include the following:

  • a three-year minimum probation term on a misdemeanor charge and up to six years on a felony charge,
  • the issuance of a protective order to shield the victim from threats or violence,
  • the completion of at least one year of child abuser treatment counseling,

California’s Mandatory Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Laws

California has laws regarding mandatory reporting which means that certain professionals are required to report to authorities when they suspect a child is being abused or neglected. Some of these professionals include the following: 

  • teachers and other school employees,
  • nurses, doctors, and EMTs,
  • social workers,
  • police,
  • firefighters.

Any mandated reporter failing to report suspected child abuse may be criminally charged.

Defense Strategies in Child Abuse Cases

If you have been charged with child abuse in California under PC 273d, you will want to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney with expertise in child abuse cases. A child abuse attorney in California can help you develop the best legal defense strategy to ensure the most successful outcome in your case.

Some of the most common legal defense strategies in a California child abuse case include the following:

  • the child abuse allegations against you are untrue,
  • the injury to the child was not caused by abuse but by something else, such as an accident,
  • you were acting within your legal rights to discipline your child,

Is Spanking Your Child Illegal in California If You Use an Object?

It is not illegal for parents to spank their child using an object, like a paddle, for example, if spanking is justifiable.

In California, justifiable spanking means: 

  • a reasonable individual would deem the punishment necessary under similar circumstances, and,
  • the chosen spanking method was reasonable

When is Spanking Your Child Illegal in California?

If you spank your child excessively or if the spanking is not to discipline the child, you could be charged with child abuse.

In California, for you to be convicted on charges related to child abuse, the prosecutor must convince the jury of the following beyond any reasonable doubt:

  • you willfully inflicted inhumane or cruel injury or physical punishment on a child;
  • the injury or physical punishment caused some traumatic condition; and
  • you were not disciplining the child reasonably when you acted.

In addition to being charged with child abuse under PC 273d, additional charges may also be brought against you. These additional charges may include the following:

  • child endangerment (PC 273a)
  • battery (PC 242)
  • child neglect (PC 280)

Will My Name Be Placed on California’s Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) for spanking my child excessively?

Yes. Your name could end up on the California Department of Justice’s California’s Child Abuse Central Index (CACI), even if child abuse charges were never brought in your case.

The California State Legislature created the CACI in 1965 as part of the “Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act” or “CANRA.” It is used as a tool for state and local agencies to help protect the health, safety, and welfare of children in California.

Your name could be added to the CACI if there are substantiated allegations of child neglect or abuse. For claims of child abuse and neglect to be substantiated, a report must exist from an investigator who investigated the allegations against you, and it was determined by that investigator that there was evidence of child neglect or child abuse.

If you want your name removed from California’s CACI, you can ask for a grievance hearing to be held.

Even if you have not been criminally charged with child abuse, a criminal defense attorney with experience in California’s child abuse laws can assist you in the CACI grievance process and other aspects of an investigation.

Contact the Skilled Child Abuse Attorneys At Wallin & Klarich Today

If you or someone you love has been accused of criminal child abuse, is being investigated for child abuse, and/or has been charged with a crime, you should immediately contact our skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys. The criminal defense lawyers at Wallin & Klarich have successfully defended clients facing criminal child abuse charges for more than 40 years. So let us help you now.

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you can find an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal attorney available near you no matter where you are located.

Call our office today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (619) 404-0338 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

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