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Nevada's Laws on Corporal Punishment

Published July 27, 2020 by ADRAS & ALTIG, Attorneys at Law
child's teddy bear left behind after corporal punishment

It’s a fair question, right? The law is filled with inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies. So, it stands to reason that a controversial issue like corporal punishment would be anything but straightforward, especially here in Nevada.

Interestingly, whether corporal punishment qualifies as child abuse is often determined by who is doing it and where it’s being done. Corporal punishment is a patchwork quilt of laws, varying from one state to another, according to Psychology Today, a magazine designed to make psychology more understandable for the lay public.

Most states allow parents to discipline their children by spanking, which is defined as an open-handed strike with a hand to a child’s buttocks. In some states, this definition of spanking is the only legal form of corporal punishment. Others simply state that only “reasonable” or “moderate” disciplinary methods may be used.

This means that some of the forms of punishment you may have experienced as a child – such as being spanked with a wooden spoon, whipped with a belt, or hit with a shoe – may no longer be legal means of disciplining children in your state.

Additionally, it should be noted that if any kind of corporal punishment results in significant injury to your children – such as bruises, cuts, or an inability to sit down – then it will be considered child abuse, even if the method itself might otherwise be legal.

If you are dealing with a corporal punishment matter, get to know Adras & Altig, Attorneys at Law. We’re hard-nosed and practical, with the expertise and the experience to guide you through the legal process. We work as a team for your best interest. Our service area is convenient to everywhere, covering Las Vegas and nearby communities including Henderson, Boulder City, North Las Vegas, Spring Valley Township, Paradise, Winchester and more.

What Is Corporal Punishment?

In general, corporal punishment encompasses all types of physical punishment, including spanking, slapping, pinching, pulling, twisting, and hitting with an object. It also may include forcing a child to consume unpleasant substances such as soap, hot sauce, or hot pepper.

In the United States, it’s legal on a federal level. The topic is hotly and widely debated by parenting experts, psychologists and parents. Fueled by news stories about child abuse, many of those opposed to corporal punishment question whether it should remain legal and what steps could be taken to reduce incidents of physical abuse to children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents most of the nation’s practicing pediatricians, has taken a firm stance against any type of corporal punishment.

Nevertheless, paddling is still allowed in the public schools of 19 states, primarily in the South.

What Is the Corporal Punishment Law in Nevada?

Nevada state statutes define corporal punishment as “the intentional infliction of physical pain, including, without limitation, hitting, pinching or striking.”

The Nevada Department of Public Health and Wellness adds the following additional actions:

  • Spanking, hitting, slapping, pinching, ear pulling, jabbing, shoving or choking
  • Forcing a child to assume a position that becomes painful over time
  • Confining a child in an uncomfortable space
  • Denying bathroom privileges
  • Forcing a child to eat a noxious substance, such as soap or dog food
  • Withholding water and food

The agency is unequivocal in opposing the use of corporal punishment, saying that it can impair a child’s trust and confidence; spur humiliation, anger, and resentment; and cause a child to have trouble forming close relationships, especially intimate relationships, with others later in life.

Instead, the agency promotes the use of distraction, time out, talking about why a certain behavior is wrong and what can be done instead, discussing values, and creating consequences for actions that are unacceptable.

Positive reinforcement is suggested as a more effective alternative.

In school settings, corporal punishment has been outlawed in Nevada since 1993. The law is firm on this. Corporal punishment is, however, acceptable if meted out by the child’s parents with an intent to discipline. A physical attack is not classified as corporal punishment if the “attack” is used to obtain a deadly weapon from a student, stop a student from harming someone else, or in self-defense.

Differences Between Corporal Punishment and Child Abuse in Nevada

The law in Nevada permits parents to discipline their children by spanking as long as they don’t cause injury to the child. Corporal punishment is a justified discipline for unacceptable behavior. Child abuse is inflicting significant bodily injury upon a child.

It is important to be cautious and restrained in using corporal punishment sparingly without great force. It’s best to avoid leaving physical or emotional marks.

Parents have the authority, by law, to discipline their children and can even use spanking and hitting as long as they are not frequently inflicted or so strong that they lead to injury of the child. Child abuse causes mental and physical pain. It’s unpredictable and can be perpetrated by parents even when the child did not make any mistake.

Corporal punishment, on the other hand, is something you can justify because it disciplines a child. Unlike child abuse, they are not done habitually. They are performed only when a child needs to learn from a mistake.

Despite the evident differences, there are still many parents who do not know the difference between corporal punishment and child abuse in Nevada. They are just not aware that they have been causing too much physical and mental distress to their children. In a single recent year, 27 children died due to child abuse and other related domestic violence incidents in Las Vegas and surrounding areas.

This shows that child abuse is still rampant in Nevada. It can even increase as parents can mistake their abuse as an act of reasonable punishment.

Defending Against Child Abuse Accusations in Nevada

Defending yourself in child abuse cases is a scary thing, especially if child abuse was never your intention. But remember that you are entitled to a defense.

Some the defenses and arguments that you could raise in court to challenge the legitimacy of the charges include, for example:

  • It is only corporal punishment. With the help of certain evidence, you may be able to show that what you did was an accepted form of corporal punishment in Nevada, and that there are no evident bruises or injuries seen on the body of the child, and that the child’s mental state is healthy as well.
  • It was an accident. A child’s rowdiness can lead to accidents of their own making.
    • For example; you may be able to establish that a child’s broken arm was caused by a fall you had nothing to do with.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer for a Free Consultation

If you are a parent who is accused of child abuse in Nevada, but you were merely disciplining your child through corporal punishment, defend yourself with the aid of a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney who understands the differences between corporal punishment and child abuse.

It’s an important distinction, and your future may hang in the balance. If you are convicted of child abuse, you could face jail time and significant fines. When your freedom is at stake, leave nothing to chance. Align yourself with the A-team of criminal defense – Adras & Altig. In Las Vegas, we’re known for results.

Contact us now for a free and confidential case review.

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