In assault cases, parents must show discipline is reasonable

COLUMBUS (AP) — It’s up to parents or caregivers charged with injuring a child to prove their actions were a form of reasonable discipline, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a victory for prosecutors bringing such charges.

At issue before the court was the 2017 domestic violence and assault conviction of a Delaware man in central Ohio for allegedly beating his girlfriend’s son for acting out in school.

The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing through his attorneys that placing the burden to prove his actions were reasonable on him violated his constitutional due process rights.

Wednesday’s unanimous opinion rejected that argument, saying it’s fair to ask a defendant to prove through testimony or witnesses that the discipline was justified. The decision addressed conflicting rulings by two lower courts, one of which had said the burden was on prosecutors to prove discipline was improper.

Only a parent or caregiver “knows and is able to describe the corrective intent behind the use of corporal punishment and why he or she felt it necessary to resort to such means, including, for example, the child’s behavioral history and responses to prior discipline,” said Justice Patrick Fischer, writing for the majority.

The ruling was a win for prosecutors, since it places the burden on the parent to prove the discipline was appropriate and means prosecutors only have to show an injury was severe enough to be considered illegal.