Parents have a right to reasonably spank their children, says Massachusetts high courtPart of why this dad was prosecuted was because he appeared to be angry. The incident was quite trivial, but many so-called experts say that discipline should not be done in anger.
Such a right has been recognized throughout American history, as a defense against a charge of battery (under criminal law or tort law). In this case, the state trial judge seemed to conclude no such right existed, at least in public, saying,If you’re in public with your kids, it’s not appropriate to discipline in this fashion.But yesterday, the Massachusetts high court unanimously reversed, in Commonwealth v. Dorvil, concluding that there was indeed a common-law right to spank:[A] parent or guardian may not be subjected to criminal liability for the use of force against a minor child under the care and supervision of the parent or guardian, provided that (1) the force used against the minor child is reasonable; (2) the force is reasonably related to the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the welfare of the minor, including the prevention or punishment of the minor’s misconduct; and (3) the force used neither causes, nor creates a substantial risk of causing, physical harm (beyond fleeting pain or minor, transient marks), gross degradation, or severe mental distress….
As far as I know, there is no legal doctrine that you are certain rights as long as you are not angry.
If you spank in public, you are always subject to some jerk calling 911 just because he or she does not approve of spanking.
I am skeptical that observers or cops can even tell whether a parent is angry. Often a parent pretends to be angry as a way of impressing seriousness on the child.
People who are truly angry can make bad judgments, but the law should apply to what they do, not their emotional states.