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Felony battery charge on woman accused of using switch

In Arkansas, the criminal laws are strictly enforced. That's what both a 12-year-old girl and her 70-year-old great grandmother recently learned when the girl had the older woman arrested for battery. However, judging from public opinion, it was an unpopular enforcement decision by the Hot Springs Police, who are on the hot seat for arresting the older woman for doing what many people seem to feel was the right thing to do.  

Apparently, the girl had wasted food and talked back to her great grandma. The woman admitted to the police that she went out in her yard and stripped a branch, which she used as a switch against the girl to teach her a lesson. Some tell-tale welts were left on the girl's arm.

The girl threatened to call 911, and the woman told her to do it. But the by-the-book reaction of the police in response to the call seems overboard, especially in the opinion of hundreds of people who posted on a television station's Facebook page. The police charged the woman with a felony domestic battery charge. The consensus of the messages was that this was necessary discipline and that the girl will now think that she can do anything she wants.

A felony is no laughing matter for a 70-year-old with two dozen other great grandchildren, some of whom she helps to raise.  The issue of corporal punishment arises occasionally in the criminal law when a teacher or parent ventures to instill some immediate respect against a child's misbehavior. In this case, defense counsel will likely stress that the woman did not go beyond the bounds of reasonable corporal punishment and she certainly had no criminal intent.

Undoubtedly, some of that kind of activity could be abusive and could constitute a criminal battery under Arkansas law. However, under traditional common law rules, a parent or someone acting in that role has a right to inflict reasonable physical punishment on a child. The police acknowledged as much by reportedly telling the great grandma that she should have inflicted the punishment on the girl's buttocks.

Source: abc13.com, "Grandma arrested for whipping relative with a switch", June 30, 2016

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