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The post below was published on Friday, December 17th, 2010 at 9:48 AM.

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Second District: Child Abuse

A father was convicted of criminal child abuse under section 827.03(1). The child, who was 9, testified that his father had his hand on the boy’s hair, pressed his knee against the boy’s back while holding him, and at one point shook him. Other evidence suggested that the father may have twisted the boy’s arm, but without any bruising or otherwise visible injury. These events occurred during a domestic quarrel involving the boy’s mother.

The question arises: do those acts constitute criminal child abuse under the statute?

In this case, the Second District said no. Because chapter 827 does not define many key concepts, the district court looked to chapter 39 — a chapter relating to children — for guidance. The court concluded that, for purposes of section 827.03(1), a physical injury requires something more than mild or passing discomfort, and a mental injury requires an impairment of a child’s ability to function within the normal range of performance and behavior. Neither occurred here, and so the district court ordered the father discharged for that offense.

Perhaps sensing issues down the road, Judge Altenbernd authored a concurrence pointing out that the appellate courts should not always be expected to use chapter 39 to lend meaning to chapter 827’s proscriptions.

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