Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Bill Regarding Parental Discipline Defense Becomes Law


On April 23, 2013, the Governor signed SB 870 SD1 HD1 related to Discipline of a Minor Defense as Act 31. SB870 SD1 HD1 was part of the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s legislative package since 2012. This law created a list of presumptions that are unjustifiable use of force when parents or guardians discipline their minors such as: “throwing, kicking, burning, biting, cutting, striking with a closed fist, shaking a minor under three years of age, interfering with breathing, or threatening with a deadly weapon.” The legislature made it rebuttable. In the previous law, in order to be able to use the defense, attorneys had to show that the defendant did not use force that was “designed to or known to create a risk of causing substantial bodily injury, disfigurement, extreme pain or mental distress, or neurological damage.” We added lower state of mind language: “The force used does not intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently create a risk of causing substantial bodily injury, disfigurement, extreme pain or mental distress, or neurological damage.” Thus, the defense can’t be applied if the defendant was reckless or negligent as well in causing the victim subtantially bodily injury.

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