An Oklahoma Statute Preserves Your Right to Appropriately Discipline Your Children
Video Transcribed: Is spanking child abuse in Oklahoma? I’m Tulsa criminal defense attorney James Wirth, and we’re talking about child abuse and corporal punishment and how they fit with each other.
So the question that came in is spanking child abuse in Oklahoma? And the statutes pretty clear cut on that, but in practice, it can be a little bit more complicated, so let me tell you what the statute says. So we’ve got criminal statutes in Oklahoma under Title 21 that defined all these different crimes, and that includes child abuse, child neglect.
And in the act that’s related, the legal action, it’s related to child abuse, there is a statute that has an exception I can read that to you, and that’s Title 21, Section 844, and it says provided however that nothing contained in this act, and that’s the act that defines child abuse crimes, shall prohibit any parent-teacher or other person from using ordinary force as a means of discipline, including but not limited to spanking, switching, and paddling. So this is the Oklahoma Statute that preserves your right to appropriately discipline your children, either in the form of spanking, switching, or paddling.
However, we see a lot of focus on that ordinary force and how do we do determine what is ordinary or not? And we see that from DHS caseworkers who are investigating, investigators who are investigating child abuse, typically we hear them talk about if it leaves any kind of marks or bruises or anything like that they consider it not to be an ordinary force, but considered to be abuse.
However, if you read the entire statute you really have to weigh that also with things that we specifically are listed in here as not being abuse. It says including but not limited to spanking, switching, or paddling. So we know generally speaking with ordinary force spanking switching and paddling is legal in the state of Oklahoma.
My guess is that if we’re using switching, taking a limb off of a tree, and spanking with that, I would say that leaves marks when ordinarily used so I think the DHS standards a little bit different than the statutory standard and the statute needs to prevail under those circumstances, but fighting with DHS can be difficult and we do that on a regular basis. So to answer the question is spanking child abuse, the answer is it is not as long as you’re using ordinary force.
However, there is some debate on what constitutes ordinary force, but from my perspective ordinary force, clearly needs to include what the statute provides, which is that it can include spanking, switching, and paddling.
So if you’re dealing with any kind of investigation, have questions about that, or how it applies to a custody case, you’re going to want to talk to an attorney about your specific circumstances. To schedule an appointment with an attorney at my office you can do that by going to makelaweasy.com.