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Man isn't entitled to parental privilege defense

March 4, 2009

In an issue of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals had to decide whether a defendant who lived in a woman's home in exchange for babysitting her children would fall under the parental privilege defense for disciplining a child.

In Jason McReynolds v. State of Indiana, No. 82A01-0809-CR-432, Jason McReynolds appealed his conviction of Class D felony battery of a person less than 14 years of age after he spanked Yavonne Wasson's 7-year-old son with a belt and wooden clothes hangers with metal prongs after the boy wet himself.

McReynolds lived with Wasson and her two children and agreed to baby-sit them while she was at work, provide them transportation to and from school, and to assist with homework. He usually asked her permission before disciplining the children.

McReynolds claimed the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and to rebut the parental privilege defense, which is a complete defense to the battery of a child.

Although he is not a parent of the boy, McReynolds argued that common law provides some custodians with the right to use reasonable corporal punishment in disciplining a child.

Analyzing its ruling in Dayton v. State, 501 N.E.2d 482, 485 (Ind. Ct. App. 1986), in which it determined custodians who are persons in loco parentis have the right to use corporal punishment, the Court of Appeals ruled in the instant case that McReynolds isn't a person in loco parentis.

He wasn't a stepparent or romantically involved with Wasson; he didn't act as a father figure nor have the responsibilities of one; and he didn't make parental decisions on his own or even in conjunction with Wasson, wrote Judge Terry Crone.

However, even if the appellate court determined he was entitled to assert the parental privilege defense, his use of force in this case was unreasonable based on Willis v. State, 888. N.E.2d 177, 182 (Ind. 2008).

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