Parental Right to Punish Child

Defense of Child Discipline

Parental Right to Punish ChildRight to Punish Child Explained
By San Diego Criminal Defense Attorneys

Parental Right to Punish a Child is a complete defense where a parent or legal guardian used justifiable physical force to discipline a child.


  • Confining child to room or area (timeout or grounding)
  • Using reasonable corporal punishment.

Burden of Proof

When substantial evidence supports this defense, the burden is on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the act was not a lawful act of Parental Discipline.

Case Law

A parent has a right to reasonably discipline by punishing a child and may administer reasonable punishment without being liable for a battery. (Emery v. Emery (1955) 45 Cal.2d 421, 429; People v. Stewart (1961) 188 Cal.App.2d 88, 91.)

This includes the right to inflict reasonable corporal punishment. (People v. Curtiss (1931) 116 Cal.App.Supp 771, 775.)

“[W]hether the corporal punishment falls within the parameters of a parent’s right to discipline involves consideration of not only the necessity for the punishment but also whether the amount of punishment was reasonable or excessive. Reasonableness and necessity therefore are not two separate defenses but rather two aspects of the single issue of parental right to discipline by physical punishment. (People v. Whitehurst (1992) 9 Cal.App.4th 1045, 1050.)

Reasonable acts of discipline include confinement to a particular location for disciplinary purposes.  However, confining a child for an unlawful purpose or with the intent to endanger the child’s health and safety is not a reasonable exercise of parental authority.  (People v. Checketts (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 1190, 1194.)

Jury Considerations

In determining whether defendant was using his or her Parental Right to Discipline a Child the jury must consider

  1. If a reasonable person would find that the punishment was necessary under the circumstances;
  2. If a reasonable person would find that the punishment was reasonable under the circumstances;
  3. Whether the prosecution has shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the force or method of punishment was not reasonable.

Learn More …

If you or a loved one are accused of a San Diego Criminal Offense and the Crime was committed under circumstances of a Parental Right to Punish Child, give our Criminal Defense Attorneys a call for a Free Analysis by calling 619-708-2073 or emailing us at

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Scott Hullinger, Esq.

Scott Hullinger, Esq.

San Diego Criminal & Civil Attorney

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