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McCausland successfully defends father against assault charge

Attorney Hannah McCausland won an assault trial Oct. 20 in Clark County District Court, successfully arguing to the jury that her client exercised “reasonable parental discipline,” in slapping his son on the face. Her client said he panicked when his 2½-year-old son ran across a parking lot toward a busy intersection.

Under state law, physical discipline of a child “is not unlawful when it is reasonable and moderate and is inflicted by a parent, teacher or guardian for purposes of restraining or correcting the child.” The law also says that the “age, size and condition of the child and the location of the injury shall be considered when determining whether the bodily harm is reasonable or moderate.”

McCausland’s client was arrested after witnesses, a mother and her 12-year-old daughter, reported him to police. The witnesses were at a laundromat and saw McCausland’s client outside with his son. The daughter said she saw the dad snatch the boy off the ground and put him in his car seat, but didn’t see what happened before he picked up his son. The daughter got her mother’s attention, and when the mother turned around she saw the dad, who had his back to her, making a motion with his arm as though he was slapping his son.

The mother saw a Vancouver Police Department patrol car on Fourth Plain Boulevard and waved her arms to get the officer’s attention, then she and her daughter told the officer what they'd seen. The officer spoke to the father, and noted in his report that the right side of the child’s face was reddening. The father told the officer that he’d been upset because he’d been doing laundry and realized his son had run outside of the laundromat into the parking lot toward the street. He admitted that he might have "lost it” for a moment, according to the officer's report.

Child Protective Services was contacted. A social worker came to the scene and took custody of the child. After its own investigation, CPS determined it did not have a cause to keep the child from his family and returned him home.

An assistant city attorney, however, chose to take the case to trial. The father was charged with fourth-degree assault domestic violence, a gross misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

The father testified at trial that he was doing laundry and his son was helping him, and then he looked back to where his child had been standing and he wasn’t there. He couldn’t find him in the laundromat, then saw him outside running across the parking lot toward Fourth Plain Boulevard. Panicked, he raced outside, caught up to his son and was scolding him for running away. He said he spanked him, and then slapped him after putting him in his car seat.

The jury deliberated for approximately 30 minutes before returning the verdict of not guilty. 

Tags: criminal law, not guilty, assault, domestic violence, Clark County

Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.: Vancouver Defenders Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.
Vancouver Defenders