How Minnesota Law Defines “Malicious Punishment of a Child”


If you are facing malicious punishment of a child charges, the future may seem riddled with uncertainty. These charges can be all the more confusing when you believe that you did not do anything outside the realm of average and acceptable parenting. But the state of Minnesota takes the malicious punishment of a child very seriously, and that includes any and all cases in which the parent thinks they are in the right.

The laws concerning the malicious punishment of a child are outlined in Minnesota Statutes § 609.377, which begins as follows:

A parent, legal guardian, or caretaker who, by an intentional act or a series of intentional acts with respect to a child, evidences unreasonable force or cruel discipline that is excessive under the circumstances is guilty of malicious punishment of a child.

Fortunately, the law then delves into what discipline it considers to be unreasonably forceful or cruel, as well as what penalties a person convicted of this crime can expect.

MN Child Discipline Laws: Malicious Punishment of a Child

According to legislation, § 609.377, a person found guilty of maliciously punishing a child faces a range of convictions and penalties hinging on the details of their case. The lightest conviction is a gross misdemeanor, which is quite serious and punishable by up to one year of imprisonment or a fine of up to $3,000 — or both. Gross misdemeanors are applicable to cases in which the malicious punishment resulted in “less than substantial bodily harm” to the child.

The second-lightest conviction for this crime is an enhancement to a felony, which is given to defendants found guilty of a gross misdemeanor of maliciously punishing a child and have been previously convicted of this crime or other types of assault, criminal sexual conduct, and/or threats of violence. However, this only applies if the new conviction is taking place between the previous conviction or adjudication for delinquency and the end of a 5-year period after being discharged from the sentence/disposition.

From here, the convictions for the “malicious punishment of a child” include the following felonies:

  • Harming a child under the age of 4 by causing bodily harm to their eyes, head, neck, or by bruising their body;
  • Causing them substantial bodily harm;
  • Causing them great bodily harm.

Penalties for Malicious Punishment of a Child Felonies

A felony charge in Minnesota is punishable by a lengthy prison sentence, a fine, or both.

If a person is found guilty of causing bodily harm to a child under 4 years old or substantial bodily harm to a child of any age, they will face no more than five years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Causing a child great bodily harm, which may include injury that creates a high probability of death, serious permanent disfigurement, or loss of function of a body part, is considered to be a more serious crime. It is punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $20,000.

In addition to time and money spent to recompense for the crime, a felony will forever remain on one’s record unless expunged by a judge. Thus, a felony is likely to negatively affect one’s personal and professional lives for years. If you are facing legal trouble due to your parenting style, especially in the form of a charge for the malicious punishment of a child, it is highly advised to contact an attorney to discuss your legal options as soon as possible.

Protect your rights. Contact Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm online or at (612) 444-5020 today for a free consultation.

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