You have to give the owners of the Minnesota Vikings a little bit of credit. On the heels of the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal—and amidst all the public pressure on the NFL to enforce a zero tolerance policy on alleged criminal conduct—the owners took a firm stand behind the presumption of innocence and declared they would not rush to judgment on Adrian Peterson’s corporal punishment / child abuse case. So as Connecticut police, prosecutors, and parents follow this case closely—several questions jump out and hit home…the first and most important question being whether corporal punishment—that is, inflicting pain as punishment—actually is legal in Greenwich and Stamford?
The answer is yes. Corporal punishment is not against the law in certain scenarios. Surprised? Keep reading…
Ask any of the best Stamford criminal lawyers and attorneys: spanking and slapping your child is not a crime. However, if you hit your child to a point where you are leaving marks or bruises, then it is criminal. In fact, it’s a felony that can land you in jail for up to 10 years. The Connecticut Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) is the State of Connecticut agency whose mission is to protect the safety and welfare of all Connecticut children and teenagers. While Connecticut DCF has adopted a very strong anti-corporal punishment policy, they do not have the authority to tell parents how to discipline their children. So while the State’s policy is to strongly discourage physical discipline and corporal punishment, they have not declared it per se illegal.
As top Darien and Greenwich criminal lawyers will agree, what is in fact illegal is engaging in any kind of conduct which endangers the health or impairs the morals of any child under 16 years old. This is a felony under the Connecticut crime of Risk of Injury to a Minor under CGS 53-21. Notably, Connecticut Risk of Injury laws are very broadly written, and as such, Stamford police and prosecutors have a lot of leeway and discretion in charging and prosecuting this crime. Many of our clients ask us the following questions: precisely when does spanking a child—or administering any kind of corporal punishment whatsoever— become criminal? Is it the number of spanks? The degree of physical force used? The subjective sensitivity of the child? Answer: all of the above is considered by police and Connecticut DCF investigators. However, one thing is for certain: it does not matter if the corporal punishment takes place within the privacy of your own home. You have no privacy rights or immunity to Greenwich and Stamford 53-21 Risk of Injury arrests for child endangerment that take place in your own home. The best Connecticut DCF investigation lawyers and the top Stamford Risk of Injury criminal attorneys concede that there is not a clear, bright line for when conduct can be classified as legal discipline and when it creeps into the realm of criminal conduct.
What has triggered a lot of discussion lately is the role of the NFL—or any employer for that matter—in dealing with an employee charged with domestic violence or child endangerment. NFL critics claim that the NFL officials should have reviewed the Ray Rice elevator tapes much earlier. Let’s be clear here though—the NFL is not the police. And if you go down that road, then are these critics suggesting that every employer should have the right to review evidence brought against an employee who is accused of committing a crime, especially when the crime has nothing to do with the employer-employee relationship? Understand that the police are conducting a criminal investigation, gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses. They do NOT have time to provide updates to employers—whether it is the NFL or a Dunkin Donuts. The NFL needs to get over itself. They should follow the lead of the Vikings owners, assess whether their employee is a threat to the safety of their employees and customers, implement any necessary any safeguards, and then let the court process run its course.
While I am not necessarily defending Peterson’s alleged attack on his son with a “switch” or stick, I am defending the response of Vikings management in not firing Peterson after his arrest. At the heart of our state and federal constitutions is the presumption of innocence. Innocent until proven guilty. And Minnesota Vikings management stuck their neck out to protect the integrity of our criminal justice system. Critics say they were protecting their ticket sales. That’s probably true in part, but looking closely at their rhetoric, they are saying all the right things, especially in the wake of the condemnation that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is taking for mishandling the Ray Rice elevator tape evidence.
Finally, as any top Stamford DCF Investigation lawyer can explain, people should take comfort in the fact that not only are allegations like Peterson’s being investigated by the police authorities, but DCF investigators are all over a case like this as well, conducting an in-depth investigation into the family home, the child’s education, and medical records. Families are often surprised when a DCF investigator comes to their door asking questions. So if you are involved in a Stamford Connecticut DCF investigation, be sure to call a top Connecticut DCF investigation lawyer to understand your rights in these investigations and protect your family.
The Stamford DCF lawyers and Greenwich Risk of Injury criminal lawyers at Mark Sherman Law regularly handle Stamford child abuse, child endangerment, corporal punishment, and 53-21 Risk of Injury Connecticut cases. We are not afraid to push back against heavy-handed prosecutors and DCF investigators. We appreciate that family matters are sensitive and will work with you and your children to get the courts and DCF out of your life and, at the same time, give law enforcement assurances that everyone in your home is safe and not at risk. Call us today at (203) 358-4700.