News broke this afternoon that Adrian Peterson, one of the greatest running backs of all time, was indicted for “reckless or negligent injury to a child.” Multiple media outlets report that the indictment stems from an incident in which Adrian Peterson disciplined his 11 year-old-son by smacking him with a switch.
Adrian Peterson has already retained prominent Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, who I have written about before, to defend this case. This case will surely make headlines for months to come, especially with this indictment coming so quickly after the release of the Ray Rice video.
Rusty and Adrian certainly have their work cut for them because of the allegation that Adrian used a switch to hit his son. Ordinarily, parents are granted broad leeway when disciplining their own children. A parent's "right" to corporally punish his or her child is derived from the right to privacy, which is viewed as implicit in the United States Constitution. This right to privacy encompasses the right to care for, control, and discipline one's own children. In Illinois, "discipline" had been interpreted by the courts to extend to reasonable corporal punishment. People v. West (In re F.W.), 261 Ill. App. 3d 894, 898 (4th Dist. 1994).
However, what is "reasonable" is always subject to debate and may eventually be left to a jury to determine. In Illinois, the use of switches, belts, or other objects to corporally punish a child have been found to constitute neglect or abuse, depending on the severity of the punishment. Factors that the court will consider are whether any physical injury resulted from the use of the object, the psychological effects of the discipline on the child, and the circumstances surrounding the discipline, including whether the parent was calmly attempting to discipline the child or whether he was lashing out in anger. In re F.W. at 903.
In fact, the odds may be against Rusty and Adrian due to the use of the switch. Here is a quote from a leading case in Illinois:
“Corporal punishment as a method of discipline remains a controversial issue. It is not our function in an abuse or neglect proceeding to determine whether parents measure up to an ideal, but to determine whether the child's welfare has been compromised. Whether to employ corporal punishment as a means of discipline is a decision each parent must make for himself or herself. However, parents should understand a swat on a child's buttocks with an open hand and the "paddling" of a child with belts, boards, cords, or ropes are intrinsically distinct exercises of corporal punishment. The cases reviewed above, and the dearth of cases finding striking with objects to be "reasonable," should put parents on notice. When allegations of neglect or abuse are levelled, parents using boards, belts, cords, or ropes as weapons to inflict corporal punishment may encounter an unwillingness on the part of DCFS and the courts to regard their conduct as reasonable.” Id. at 903.
So, Adrian will get extra scrutiny due to the use of the switch. If he had simply used the back of his hand, things may be have been different. However, please keep in mind that I am completely speculating about the facts of this case because the news just broke about 30 minutes ago. If it turns out that Adrian Peterson's son did in fact suffer serious injuries, I apologize in advance for anyone that I may have offended and I will be back here in short order to delete this post and scrub any evidence of it from the interwebs. Have a nice weekend.