Learn About Corporal Punishment California


Discussion of when and under what circumstances it is legal to spank your child under California law, and when corporal punishment can result in child abuse charges.

What Is Corporal Punishment?


Corporal punishment is a physical form of discipline that involves inflicting pain or discomfort on a child to punish them for their behavior. It is a controversial form of discipline, as there is a fine line between what is considered an acceptable level of corporal punishment and what is considered child abuse.

Cases involving child abuse are always serious. If you have a child who has been abused, you might need to contact a juvenile defense lawyer or a domestic violence attorney to help you.


Is Corporal Punishment Legal in California?


Corporal punishment is a legal issue that has been debated for many years. But unfortunately, its boundaries are not very clear to people unfamiliar with the law and its history.

According to the California Penal Code, it is unlawful to purposefully subject a child to inhuman corporal punishment or harm that results in a traumatic condition or injury. The law does not specifically outlaw spanking by hand, though. However, spanking younger children, including toddlers, may not be ideal.

Illegal corporal punishment may be equivalent to child abuse in California. As a reasonable person, it’ll be great if you can avoid child abuse charges by using other means of child discipline other than physical force.

Corporal Punishment Laws in California


Under California law, the extent of permissible corporal punishment varies depending on the age of the person being punished.

For example, while you might be able to spank a child who is five years old, you can only apply reasonable force as you discipline the child. If an injury occurs through such physical discipline, then the act may have moved to the realm of child abuse and domestic violence.

Schools in California are also prevented from using corporal punishment or physical punishment to discipline students. Schools may not punish students for refusing to attend classes or extracurricular activities. Additionally, teachers in California are not allowed to spank their students and may be charged with child abuse if such an act occurs.

Also, it is prohibited for any third party other than a parent or guardian acting in the child’s best interests to intimidate, use force or interfere with a child’s movement. A person who unlawfully does such acts is open to a civil suit and may be liable to damages of up to $5,000.

When Is Corporal Punishment Unlawful?


Unlawful corporal punishment may refer to any action that physically hurts a child and contravenes California law, whether or not the act is done with the legal authority of a parent or guardian. It can include spanking, paddling, hitting, or kicking.

In California, corporal punishment should fit the crime and shouldn’t be excessive. While what qualifies as excessive is relative, a great rule of thumb is that the punishment should not result in a wound or injury. So, parents and guardians ought to be mindful of this qualification.

The law against excessive corporal punishment protects children from physical and mental suffering, which could lead to psychological problems later in life. It is illegal under both state and federal law. Hence, as a parent, if you’re guilty of using excessive and unreasonable force on your child, you need to stop. Otherwise, you may

Recommended Forms of Discipline


According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), parents should not discipline their children with corporal or physical punishment. To encourage positive behavior in children, the HHS recommends that parents use methods such as reasoning with them and time-outs.

Unfortunately, many parents still believe that the best way to discipline their children is by spanking them. While spanking may not be outlawed by law, it requires a lot of self-control and restraint on the part of the parent. Otherwise, it could quickly escalate into full-blown violence. So, parents are encouraged to consider other effective and less physical ways of disciplining their children.

Negative Impacts of Corporal Punishment


There are indicators that corporal punishment can negatively affect your child’s brain development since it causes them to feel fear, while at the same time teaching them that violence is a legitimate way of solving problems.

The following are a few reasons why corporal punishment should be avoided whenever possible:

  • It can cause physical injury and bodily trauma to the child.

  • It can increase the risk of cerebral palsy in infants and toddlers, which can cause lifelong disabilities. Hence, corporal punishment should not be directed toward these younger children in any form.

  • Corporal punishment can make your child angry and more aggressive toward others and prone to anger issues. It has also been linked to higher levels of aggression in adolescents and adults.

  • Teens and adults who were physically punished as children are likelier to engage in physical violence than their counterparts who did not face corporal punishment.

For these and many other reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents and schools never use corporal punishment as a form of discipline.

Corporal Punishment in a Nutshell


Although the desire for using corporal punishment is to instill discipline and reinforce good behavior in children, it actually does more harm than good to individuals and the community at large. California law recognizes this and recommends alternatives to physical punishment.

If you’d like to change your discipline style to less physical methods, there are many resources available online to help you do this, including books and scholarly articles. You could also talk to your child’s doctor or a counselor for guidance.

Also, if you have any further questions or need more information on domestic violence law or you’re dealing with a child abuse case, please don’t hesitate to contact a child abuse lawyer.


If you are under investigation or charged with a crime, I will consult with you in person and at no charge to you.