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    Child Abuse and Neglect Crimes – What Is Legal Child Discipline In Colorado? Can I Spank My Child?

     by H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer Email the Author at [email protected]

    Child Abuse and Neglect Crimes - What Is Legal Child Discipline In Colorado? Can I Spank My Child?Child Abuse and Neglect Crimes – What Is Legal Child Discipline In Colorado? Can I Spank My Child? A Colorado criminal charge of child abuse can destroy the lives of everyone involved. Because of mandatory reporting laws LINK that impact literally thousands of Colorado caretakers – the number of accusations of child abuse has risen dramatically in this state. C.R.S. §19-3-304 lists those persons who are required to report suspected possible child abuse or neglect.

    Typical examples of those persons who are required by law to report possible abuse under C.R.S. §19-3-304 include, but are not limited to:

        • doctors,
        • school personnel,
        • social workers,
        • mental health workers, and
        • clergy members.

    What Is Colorado’s Legal Definition of Child Abuse?

    Title 19 of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) contains the law that addresses the abuse and – or neglect of children. Specifically C.R.S. §19-1-103 Defines the terms “abuse” and “child abuse or neglect” as instances of abuse which include physical abuse such as:

        • skin bruising,
        • bleeding,
        • malnutrition,
        • burns,
        • fractures, and
        • even emotional abuse.

    Instances of neglect under include:

        • when a parent/guardian abandons a child,
        • where a child’s environment is injurious to his or her welfare,
        • when a parent/guardian refuses to provide food, shelter, education, or medical treatment, or where a parent/guardian has subjected the child to continual abuse.

    Here Is The Law Critical To An Understanding Of The Defense Of Parental Discipline

    19-1-103. Definitions

    As used in this title or in the specified portion of this title, unless the context otherwise requires:

    (1) (a) “Abuse” or “child abuse or neglect”, as used in part 3 of article 3 of this title, means an act or omission in one of the following categories that threatens the health or welfare of a child:

    (I) Any case in which a child exhibits evidence of skin bruising, bleeding, malnutrition, failure to thrive, burns, fracture of any bone, subdural hematoma, soft tissue swelling, or death and either: Such condition or death is not justifiably explained; the history given concerning such condition is at variance with the degree or type of such condition or death; or the circumstances indicate that such condition may not be the product of an accidental occurrence;

    (II) Any case in which a child is subjected to unlawful sexual behavior as defined in section 16-22-102 (9), C.R.S.;

    (III) Any case in which a child is a child in need of services because the child’s parents, legal guardian, or custodian fails to take the same actions to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision that a prudent parent would take. The requirements of this subparagraph (III) shall be subject to the provisions of section 19-3-103.

    (IV) Any case in which a child is subjected to emotional abuse. As used in this subparagraph

    (IV), “emotional abuse” means an identifiable and substantial impairment of the child’s intellectual or psychological functioning or development or a substantial risk of impairment of the child’s intellectual or psychological functioning or development.

    (V) Any act or omission described in section 19-3-102 (1) (a), (1) (b), or (1) (c);

    (VI) Any case in which, in the presence of a child, or on the premises where a child is found, or where a child resides, a controlled substance, as defined in section 18-18-102 (5), C.R.S., is manufactured or attempted to be manufactured;

    (VII) Any case in which a child tests positive at birth for either a schedule I controlled substance, as defined in section 18-18-203, C.R.S., or a schedule II controlled substance, as defined in section 18-18-204, C.R.S., unless the child tests positive for a schedule II controlled substance as a result of the mother’s lawful intake of such substance as prescribed.

    (b) In all cases, those investigating reports of child abuse shall take into account accepted child-rearing practices of the culture in which the child participates including, but not limited to, accepted work-related practices of agricultural communities.

    Nothing in this subsection (1) shall refer to acts that could be construed to be a reasonable exercise of parental discipline or to acts reasonably necessary to subdue a child being taken into custody pursuant to section 19-2-502 that are performed by a peace officer, as described in section 16-2.5-101, C.R.S., acting in the good faith performance of the officer’s duties.

    The above section and section 19-1-102 must be read together in asserting the proper parental discipline defense:

    19-1-102. Legislative declaration.

    (1) The general assembly declares that the purposes of this title are:

    (a) To secure for each child subject to these provisions such care and guidance, preferably in his own home, as will best serve his welfare and the interests of society;

    (b) To preserve and strengthen family ties whenever possible, including improvement of home environment;

    (c) To remove a child from the custody of his parents only when his welfare and safety or the protection of the public would otherwise be endangered and, in either instance, for the courts to proceed with all possible speed to a legal determination that will serve the best interests of the child; and

    (d) To secure for any child removed from the custody of his parents the necessary care, guidance, and discipline to assist him in becoming a responsible and productive member of society.

    (1.5) (a) The general assembly declares that it is in the best interests of the child who has been removed from his own home to have the following guarantees:

    (I) To be placed in a secure and stable environment;

    (II) To not be indiscriminately moved from foster home to foster home; and

    (III) To have assurance of long-term permanency planning.

    The History Of The Parental-Discipline Defense

    Colorado, like many states, has created a statute that codifies the Parental-Discipline Defense.

    The historical and cultural reasoning behind the Parental-Discipline Defense is founded upon the parental right to use physical force which itself is based on the broad authority parents have to protect, educate, and generally raise their children as they see fit. This right has biblical origins and is – in our world a type of justification defense.

    A justification defense is an affirmative defenses that vindicate certain acts when performed in the course of one’s duty. The concept behind this defense is based upon the notion that the harm created by the actor may be illegal, but his conduct may be justified because the circumstances of the situation are such that acting illegally prevents a greater public harm.

    Here Is The Affirmative Defense As It A Jury Is Instructed On The Law In Colorado:


    It is an affirmative defense to the crime of child abuse that the defendant used physical force under any of the following circumstances:

    [A parent, guardian, or other person entrusted with the care and supervision of a minor or an incompetent person] [or another example] A teacher or other person entrusted with the care and supervision of a minor] may use reasonable and appropriate physical force upon the minor [or incompetent person] when and to the extent it is reasonably necessary and appropriate to maintain discipline or promote the welfare of the minor [or incompetent person].

    The obvious competing interests are weighed by a jury in determining whether – in this instance – a defendant, charged with child abuse, was justified in his or her disciplinary acts.

    The MODEL PENAL CODE § 3.08(1) Flushes The Defense Out Even Further

    The use of force upon or toward the person of another is justifiable if:

    (1) the actor is the parent or guardian or other person similarly responsible for the general care and supervision of a minor or a person acting at the request of such parent, guardian or other responsible person and:

    (a) the force is used for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the welfare of the minor, including the prevention or punishment of his misconduct; and

    (b) the force used is not designed to cause or known to create a substantial risk of causing death, serious bodily injury, disfigurement, extreme pain or mental distress or gross degradation.

    The RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS § 150 Adds Also Adds To The Analysis

    A parent is privileged to apply such reasonable force or to impose such reasonable confinement upon his child as he reasonably believes to be necessary for its proper control, training, or education.

    The Important Factors To Analyze In Determining Whether An Act Of Discipline Is Reasonable


        • whether the actor is a parent;
        • the age, sex, and physical and mental condition of the child;
        •  (the nature of his offense and his apparent motive;
        •  the influence of his example upon other children of the same family or group;
        •  whether the force or confinement is reasonably necessary and appropriate to compel obedience to a proper command;
        •  whether it is disproportionate to the offense, unnecessarily degrading, or likely to cause serious or permanent harm the responsibility to control, train, and educate a child, they are given the privilege to inflict physical punishment in order to reach these ends.

    Conclusion Child Abuse and Neglect Crimes – What Is Legal Child Discipline In Colorado? Can I Spank My Child?

    Clearly an act of parental discipline must be proportional to the nature of the “offense” and must be based on the characteristics of the child in question for a parent to be excused for an assault of a child. Such things as the child’s age, sex, physical and mental condition, the nature of the child’s offense and his or her apparent motive, and the child’s influence in the family,all play a role.

    If the parent’s act in disciplining their child is unreasonable or untimely, not “reasonably necessary and appropriate to compel obedience to a command as well as to effect a promotion of welfare or a punishment for misconduct” – a parent may be held by a jury to be guilty of an act of child abuse.

    Topic – Child Abuse and Neglect Crimes – What Is Legal Child Discipline In Colorado? Can I Spank My Child?

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: H. Michael Steinberg Email The Author at [email protected] – A Denver Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – or call his office at 303-627-7777 during business hours – or call his cell if you cannot wait and need his immediate assistance – 720-220-2277.

    If you are charged with A Colorado crime or you have questions about the topic of this article Child Abuse and Neglect Crimes – What Is Legal Child Discipline In Colorado? Can I Spank My Child? –  please call our office. The Law Offices of H. Michael Steinberg, in Denver, Colorado, provide criminal defense clients with effective, efficient, intelligent and strong legal advocacy. We can educate you and help you navigate the stressful and complex legal process related to your criminal defense issue.

    Over 40 Years Specializing in Colorado Criminal LawH. Michael Steinberg, is a Denver, Colorado criminal defense lawyer with over 40 years of day to day courtroom experience – specializing in Colorado Criminal Law along the Front Range. He will provide you with a free initial case consultation to evaluate your legal issues and to answer your questions with an honest assessment of your options. Remember, it costs NOTHING to discuss your case. Call now for an immediate free phone consultation.

    Helping Clients To Make Informed Decisions In the Defense of Colorado Criminal Cases.

    Contact A Lawyer with Three Decades of Experience as a Denver Criminal Attorney at The Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm today.

    Colorado Defense Lawyer H. Michael Steinberg provides solid criminal defense for clients throughout the Front Range of Colorado – including the City and County courts of Adams County, Arapahoe County, City and County of Boulder, City and County of Broomfield, City and County of Denver, Douglas County, El Paso County – Colorado Springs, Gilpin County, Jefferson County, Larimer County, and Weld County,…. and all the other cities and counties of Colorado along the I-25 Corridor… on cases involving the subject of this article – Child Abuse and Neglect Crimes – What Is Legal Child Discipline In Colorado? Can I Spank My Child?.

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    H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
    Attorney and Counselor at Law
    The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
    A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
    Colorado Criminal Law For Over 40 Years.
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