If you are a parent, guardian, or other caregiver under investigation by law enforcement or Child Protective Services (CPS) because of allegations that you spanked a child in your care and left bruises, it is important that you contact a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible. At The Marshall Defense Firm, we have extensive experience representing individuals accused of child abuse and understand that whenever children are involved, the emotions of investigators, prosecutors, juries and even judges can run high. However, it is lawful to physically discipline a child as long as the discipline used is (1) reasonable and moderate, and (2) inflicted by a parent, guardian, teacher, or another person authorized in advance by the child's parent or guardian to use such force for purposes of restraining or correcting the child. We are ready to defend you vigorously against any charges or accusations.
Often the evidence includes photos of bruises and records of medical examination of the child. We will undertake our own investigation and work with medical experts to determine if the bruising may have resulted from an unrelated event, at the hands of another, or from the use of reasonable and moderate force.
Usually the child said to have been assaulted will have been interviewed about it. The child’s statements will probably be offered as evidence at any trial or CPS hearing. The defense attorney needs to understand the frailties of children as witnesses and the special body of law on using their statements as evidence.
Interviewing a child about an unpleasant experience they may have had is a difficult thing to do, even for persons who have received specialized training. Every interviewer suffers from what psychologists call “confirmation bias”—the natural tendency to look for information that supports an accusation and to overlook information that undercuts it. Even the best-intentioned interviewers sometimes introduce or suggest facts which a child adopts and reports as things that happened, even though they didn’t. These false statements by a child can even become a genuine, but false, memory; when that happens, the child will repeat the statements, with sincerity, even when asked non-leading questions.
At The Marshall Defense Firm, we understand how false memories are formed; we’ve studied the science, and we keep up to date on new developments in it. We know the best practices in child interviewing, and we notice when they have not been followed in an investigation. We often present leading experts in forensic interviewing and psychology at trial to explain the problems with the child’s statements in the case we’re defending.
Cases involving spanking that leaves bruises often result in a charge of Assault in the Fourth Degree. Allegations of this nature can also trigger a CPS investigation.
In Washington, Assault in the Fourth Degree is sometimes referred to as simple assault and is the least serious assault crime under state law. Any touching that would be offensive to an average person qualifies as Assault in the Fourth Degree. There is an exception, though, for reasonable discipline, as we’ve described near the beginning of this page.
Assault in the fourth degree is a gross misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 364 days in jail or a $5,000 fine or both.
How We Will Tackle Your Defense
Facing an assault charge is daunting. You need to know that your defense is in the right hands. The Marshall Defense Firm has the knowledge, skill, and expertise to present the strongest defense possible.
If there is evidence of bruising, the government may present a physician’s opinion that it was caused by force beyond the moderate and reasonable physical discipline allowed under the law. Often the physician is certified in “child abuse medicine” and works on a child abuse medical team at a children’s hospital.
When we face a physician for the government, we look for a physician for the defense. It is often a difficult search because many physicians absolutely refuse to testify for anyone accused of a crime of this nature. We have strong connections around the country, though, and good relationships with many outstanding physicians who share our desire that the accused get a fair shake.
We will also examine the actions of the police or CPS workers investigating this allegation, and if any evidence against you was gathered by unconstitutional means, we will ask the judge to keep that evidence out of the trial.
Some of our clients facing criminal charges want to pursue a plea bargain in their cases to avoid the risk that goes with any trial. We’re glad to explore compromises. In fact, we always find out for our client what compromise the prosecution would accept. We have a great deal of experience negotiating with prosecutors and may be able to negotiate an outcome that results in significantly reduced charges or penalties. We can develop strategies to demonstrate to the State both the weaknesses in their case and mitigating circumstances in your life.
Finally, if you wish to take the case to trial, the lawyers of The Marshall Defense Firm are outstanding trial attorneys. We are often invited to teach trial skills to other lawyers. From selecting a jury to closing arguments, our knowledge of trial rules and tactics runs deep, and we will use it to fight for you every step of the way.
What it’s Like to Have The Marshall Defense Firm in Your Corner
Respect and compassion are the foundation of our work. We take time to get to know you and your case. It’s where our fierce advocacy for you begins.
Then there’s our experience. We have defended many persons accused of excessive spanking and other forms of child assault. From that and our on-going study of the law, medicine, and psychology involved in these cases, we have exceptional skill.
And we pool that skill. We work as a team. We know that no one lawyer, no matter how brilliant, will have all the good ideas for your case.
Our final ingredient is relentless investigation and preparation. When we step into court to defend you, we are ready to do it well.