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Is corporal punishment allowed in Maryland?

Is it okay to physically discipline your children in Maryland?

It depends. According to state law, physical abuse of a child is defined as any circumstance that either leaves the child’s health and wellbeing actually harmed or puts the child’s health and wellbeing at risk of harm.

While that may leave a number of situations open to interpretation, it seems pretty clear that one Maryland mother recently crossed the line from parental discipline — which is supposed to be instructive and tailored to a child’s age and understanding — into outright abuse.

The 26-year-old woman filmed herself beating her two small children and then posted a 22-second video of the abuse to Facebook. In the video, the angry mother can be seen repeatedly striking her crying 6-year-old daughter before grabbing her 5-year-old son by the hair and punching him. She then yells directly into the camera, threatening to beat both children to death.

Once located, the children were able to tell the police more stories of abuse. Their mother frequently beat them, pulled their hair and locked them in a small wooden toy box as punishment. The mother’s excuse for her behavior on the video was only partially related to her anger at the children — she also hoped it would frighten her estranged husband into returning.

While corporal punishment is not expressly forbidden in Maryland, striking a child in a fit of rage is essentially abuse. Using an object to strike a child, rather than your hand, could be considered abusive, since you can easily cause a severe injury when hitting a child with a belt, paddle, wooden spoon or electrical cord. Striking a child with your closed fist is more likely to be considered abuse than slapping a child with your open hand because of the amount of force that’s involved.

While many of today’s parents were raised in an age when corporal punishment was more acceptable, it’s important to remember that social standards have changed — which means that those who don’t adjust to the times could face considerable legal consequences.

If you’ve been charged with assault related to child abuse because of a momentary lose of control, a lapse in judgment or a poor understanding of what is now considered acceptable physical discipline, talk to a criminal defense attorney promptly.

Source: People, “Maryland Mom Who Appeared to Beat Her Kids in Viral Video Now Faces Abuse and Assault Charges,” Chris Harris, March 23, 2017

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