Mother’s battery on teen not protected by parental privilege

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The Indiana Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a mother’s misdemeanor battery conviction for hitting her daughter nearly 20 times with a belt after previous discipline did not stop the teen from communicating with boys on social media.

Latoyia Smith took away 13-year-old J.W.’s electronic devices, enrolled her in private Christian school, and had her deactivate her social media accounts after discovering the girl had sexual conversations with boys online and sent naked pictures of herself to people. The teen also snuck out of the house to meet boys at nearby parks.

After discovering J.W. acquired an iPod after an out-of-town fieldtrip and reactivated her social media accounts, Smith grabbed a belt and struck J.W. several times. The girl tried to get away and her mother grabbed another belt and struck J.W. several more times. She stopped because she said it “took more energy than it was worth.”

After a teacher saw the injuries on J.W., the Department of Child Services was contacted and Smith was charged with Class A misdemeanor battery. She was convicted and sentenced to one year in jail, all suspended to non-reporting probation.

In Latoyia Smith v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1409-CR-400, Smith asserted the defense of parental discipline pursuant to I.C. 35-71-3-1, but the Court of Appeals found it did not apply in this case.

“Indiana Code section 35-41-3-1 establishes that a parent has a right to employ reasonable corporal punishment to discipline a child. But there are limits to that right and parents may be found guilty of, among other things, battery, if they exceed their disciplinary authority,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote.” We decline Smith’s invitation that we reweigh the evidence with regard to her claimed defense that her actions were justified as reasonable parental discipline. Despite J.W.’s egregious behavior and the apparent ineffectiveness of previous disciplinary attempts, the force employed by Smith to discipline J.W. was unreasonable and we find that it exceeded the privilege allowed to parents.”


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