Yes, a person can go to jail for smacking a child. Smacking a child could well constitute the crime of assault under Tennessee law. The general Tennessee law for assault, codified at Tenn. Code Ann. §39-13-101, defines assault as follows:
(a) A person commits the crime of assault who:
(1) Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another;
(2) Intentionally or knowingly causes another to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury; or
(3) Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative.
Of course, a parent or guardian who smacks a child potentially face child abuse charges. Tenn. Code Ann. §39-15-401(a) provides:
Any person who knowingly, other than by accidental means, treats a child under eighteen (18) years of age in such a manner as to inflict injury commits a Class A misdemeanor; provided, however, that, if the abused child is eight (8) years of age or less, the penalty is a Class D felony.
If the child suffers “serious bodily injury,” the person could be charged with aggravated child abuse. Tennessee law defines “serious bodily injury” to include “second- or third-degree burns, a fracture of any bone, a concussion, subdural or subarachnoid bleeding, retinal hemorrhage, cerebral edema, brain contusion, injuries to the skin that involve severe bruising or the likelihood of permanent or protracted disfigurement.”
Slapping likely could not inflict the type of damage to cause “serious bodily injury” but it could depending on the size and power of the perpetrator and the age of the child. Suffice it to say that slapping a child could, at the least, lead to assault charges and perhaps to even more serious child abuse charges.
If you face criminal charges for assaulting a child, contact criminal defense attorney Philip Clark at PNC Law.