According to an article in the MetroWest Daily News, a Framingham man, was arrested after physically disciplining his son. The child, who is seven years old, bit one his teachers at his school. Following the incident, the defendant, the child’s father, reportedly destroyed the child’s video game system. The child’s mother tried to intervene and prevent the defendant from breaking the system. When she did so, however, the defendant reportedly hit her and shoved her away. He then reportedly hit his son and kicked him twice in his buttocks. Approximately two hours after the alleged incident, the defendant presented himself at the police station. While there, he acknowledged that he had hit his son twice in the rear, but denied kicking him. As a result of the incident, the defendant was charged with (1) assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot); (2) assault and battery on a child; (3) domestic assault and battery; and (4) malicious destruction of property over $250.
Despite the fact that the defendant was charged with these offenses, he does appear to have a legitimate defense. In relation to the charges in which the defendant’s son is the alleged victim, the defendant can argue that he was simply using reasonable physical force to discipline his child. While the Massachusetts legislature does not specifically allow for the use of physical discipline by a parent, Massachusetts case law alludes to the ability of a parent, or one acting in position of a parent, to use physical force to discipline a child. For example, in Commonwealth v. Rubeck, the Supreme Judicial Court appears to recognize the parental right to discipline as a legitimate defense to the use of physical force against a child as long as the physical force is for the specific purpose of discipline, is conducted in a controlled manner rather than the result of an emotional outburst, and does not result in bruising or significant injury. Given the fact that it is undeniably inappropriate for a seven year old child to bite a teacher, the defendant can argue that he was within his rights to put his hands on his child for the purpose of disciplining him.
As for the malicious destruction of property charge, the defendant appears to have a strong argument that the property was his to destroy. In light of the son’s young age, it seems unlikely that the son purchased the video game system himself, and it is much more likely that the defendant bought the system for the child. Destruction of one’s own property is certainly not a crime, therefore, the defendant likewise appears to have a strong argument that the destruction of the gaming system does not constitute malicious destruction of property as contemplated under the statute.
Lastly, the defendant also appears to have a defense in relation to the domestic assault charge. The wife’s statement to the police indicates that she was attempting to intervene and prevent the defendant from destroying the gaming system. She also acknowledged that the defendant shoved her away to prevent her from stopping him. Depending on the extent of the physical contact, the defendant may also have an argument that he was simply using justifiable force to prevent his wife from stopping him from destroying the gaming system.
Although the defendant certainly appears to have legitimate defenses to the charges, he will still need an experienced attorney to investigate the case and present his arguments to the court. If you or a loved one has been involved in a similar family dispute, you will also need a skilled attorney to do the same for you. Attorney Daniel Cappetta has been practicing criminal defense for many years and knows how to assess and successfully defend his client’s cases. Call him for a free consultation today.