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Malicious Punishment of a Child

How parents discipline their children varies widely depending on a number of factors, including religious beliefs, the culture of the community the family lives in, and the ages of the children involved. When Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted in September 2014 for repeatedly striking his 4-year-old son with a tree branch referred to as a “switch,” Peterson and many others claimed that the punishment was how they were disciplined during their childhoods.

State law in Minnesota criminalizes discipline that is deemed “excessive under the circumstances.” Depending on the harm caused, this may be a misdemeanor or felony offense that carries severe penalties.

Lawyer for Malicious Punishment of a Child in Apple Valley, MN

Have you been arrested for alleged malicious discipline of a child in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area? You should contact James Blumberg Law before making any kind of statement to authorities.

James Blumberg is a criminal defense attorney in Apple Valley who also represents clients in Blaine, Brooklyn Park, Coon Rapids, Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, Plymouth, and Woodbury. He can review your case and answer all of your legal questions as soon as you call (952) 431-7758 to schedule a free initial consultation.


Overview of Malicious Punishment of a Child in Minnesota


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Malicious Punishment of a Child Charges in Dakota County

The criminal charge of malicious punishment is defined under Subdivision 1 of Minnesota Statute § 609.377 as a parent, legal guardian, or caretaker who, by an intentional act or a series of intentional acts with respect to a child, uses “unreasonable force or cruel discipline that is excessive under the circumstances.” If the alleged punishment results in less than substantial bodily harm, this crime is classified as a gross misdemeanor.

Malicious punishment of a child may be classified as a felony in the following cases:

  • Alleged offense occurred within five years of discharge from sentence or disposition for conviction or adjudication for delinquency relating to malicious punishment of a child, assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree, assault in the third degree, assault in the fourth degree, assault in the fifth degree, domestic assault, criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, criminal sexual conduct in the third degree, criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree, or threats of violence;
  • Alleged punishment was to a child under the age of four and caused bodily harm to the head, eyes, neck, or otherwise causes multiple bruises to the body;
  • Alleged punishment resulted in substantial bodily harm; or
  • Alleged punishment resulted in great bodily harm.

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Apple Valley Penalties for Malicious Punishment of a Child

A gross misdemeanor offense of malicious punishment is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $3,000. The penalties for felony offenses depend on the alleged harm caused to the child.

If an alleged offender has a qualifying violent crime or domestic violence-related conviction or adjudication within five years, the child was under the age of four, or the punishment resulted in substantial bodily harm, a conviction is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If the alleged offense resulted in great bodily harm, a conviction is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000.

Minnesota Statute § 609.02 provides the following definitions relating to bodily harm:

  • Bodily harm is defined as physical pain or injury, illness, or any impairment of physical condition;
  • Substantial bodily harm is defined as bodily injury which involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, or which causes a temporary but substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or which causes a fracture of any bodily member; and
  • Great bodily harm is defined as bodily injury which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm.

“Unreasonable force,” “cruel discipline,” and “excessive” are not the only terms and phrases that are subject to debate in these case, but the degree of bodily harm can also be far too vague and open to interpretation. What one juror may deem excessive discipline may be perfectly acceptable to another.

It is critical for an alleged offender facing malicious punishments to have experienced legal representation capable of presenting facts and witnesses that can lead to the criminal charges being reduced or possibly even dismissed.


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Minnesota Resources for Malicious Punishment of a Child

Child Protection | Dakota County — Dakota County Social Services investigates reports of child physical abuse, child sexual abuse, and child neglect allegedly committed by parents, relatives, or other household members. On this website, you can learn more about different types of abuse and how investigations are handled. You can also find out who is required to report suspected child abuse, what needs to be reported, and what can happen if a person fails to report.

Dakota County Social Services
1 Mendota Road West
West St. Paul, MN 55118
(651) 554-6000

Minnesota | Children's Safety Network (CSN) — The CSN is a project of Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) that works to understand the causes of intentional and unintentional child injuries and to develop prevention strategies. On this section of the CSN website, you can find state fact sheets that include major causes of injury deaths, major causes of hospital-admitted injuries, and other Minnesota data relating to child injuries and violence for the years between 2012 and 2015. You can also find links to state specific reports, highlights, and recent news.


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Find a Lawyer for Malicious Punishment of a Child Arrest in Dakota County

If you believe you are being investigated or you were already arrested for alleged malicious discipline of a child in the Twin Cities, you should not say anything to police or other authorities without legal representation. James Blumberg Law aggressively defends clients accused of domestic violence crimes in St. Cloud, Minnetonka, Lakeville, Eagan, Burnsville, Bloomington, and many other surrounding communities in the greater Apple Valley area.

Minnesota criminal defense attorney James Blumberg serves residents of Washington County, Scott County, Ramsey County, Hennepin County, Dakota County, Carver County, and Anoka County. Call (952) 431-7758 or fill out an online contact form to have our former prosecutor provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free, confidential consultation.


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James L. Blumberg

Attorney James L. Blumberg

As a former prosecutor in the Dakota County Attorney’s Office, James Blumberg has experience on both sides of the criminal courtroom. He knows how to fight to get charges reduced or dismissed for clients in the Twin Cities area.

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