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Appellate court addresses parental privilege in 2 opinions

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In two cases involving the parental privilege defense, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a teacher who “flicked” a special education student’s tongue and against a father hit his daughter numerous times with a belt.

In Trinda Barocas v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1007-CR-732, special education teacher Trinda Barocas appealed her conviction of Class B misdemeanor for “flicking” the tongue of a student with Down syndrome. Barocas had twice told the student to put her tongue back in her mouth and when she didn’t, Barocas flicked her tongue, causing the student to wail and cry.

Barocas argued she wasn’t guilty because teachers have qualified immunity for reasonably necessary disciplinary acts. Parents have legal authority to engage in reasonable discipline of their children, even if that conduct would otherwise be battery, and that justification has been extended to teachers, within reason, wrote Judge Melissa May. The judges looked to Willis v. State, 888 N.E.2d 177, 180-81 (Ind. 2008), which discussed the parental privilege defense and noted for the state to sustain a conviction of battery where a claim of parental privilege has been asserted, the state must prove either the force the parent used was unreasonable or that the parent’s belief that such force was necessary to control the child and prevent misconduct was unreasonable.

The appellate court found Barocas’ force against the student was not cruel or excessive, and it doesn’t rise to the level of “unreasonable force.” The judges were unable to find any decision in which a parent or teacher’s conviction of battery was upheld based on the use of force as minimal as that used by Barocas, wrote Judge May. The state also didn’t prove the second element of the test adopted in Willis – that the teacher was unreasonable to believe a physical prompt was necessary to control the student’s behavior of sticking out her tongue. They reversed Barocas’ conviction.

But in Jeffrey L. Hunter v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1011-CR-1224, a different Court of Appeals panel ruled against father Jeffrey Hunter who argued his Class A misdemeanor battery conviction should be reversed because the evidence didn’t rebut his parental privilege defense.

Hunter had ongoing disciplinary issues with his 14-year-old daughter B.H. and after finding out she had someone forge a signature on a permission slip to go to Indiana Beach, he ordered B.H. to strip down to her underwear and come to him in the living room. When she wouldn’t tell him who paid for the trip, he hit her around 20 times with a belt, leaving injuries that were still present months later. The “degrading and long-lasting physical effects” of her injuries differentiate this case from Willis and the appellate court concluded he used unreasonable force. They upheld his battery conviction.

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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