Criminal Law

3405. Parental Right to Punish a Child

A (parent/guardian/ <insert title of other person legally permitted to discipline the child>) is not guilty of <insert crime> if (he/she) used (justifiable physical force/ [(a/or) another] justifiable method) to discipline a child. (Physical force/ [or] <insert other method of punishment>) is justifiable if a reasonable person would find that punishment was necessary under the circumstances and that the (physical force/ [or] method) used was reasonable.

The People must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the (force/ [or] method of punishment) used was not justifiable. If the People have not met this burden, you must find the defendant not guilty of <insert crime>.

Bench Notes

Instructional Duty

The court has a sua sponte duty to instruct on the right of a parent to discipline a child. (People v. Whitehurst (1992) 9 Cal.App.4th 1045, 1049 [12 Cal.Rptr.2d 33].)


Instructional Requirements. People v. Whitehurst (1992) 9 Cal.App.4th 1045, 1049-1051 [12 Cal.Rptr.2d 33].

Lawful Forms of Discipline. People v. Checketts (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 1190, 1194 [84 Cal.Rptr.2d 491].

Secondary Sources

2 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (3d ed. 2000) Sex Offenses and Crimes Against Decency, § 165.

6 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 142, Crimes Against the Person, §§ 142.13[2][a], 142.23[7] (Matthew Bender).

Related Issues


Reasonable acts of discipline include confinement to a particular location for disciplinary purposes. However, confining a child for an unlawful purpose or with the intent to endanger the child's health and safety is not a reasonable exercise of parental authority. (People v. Checketts (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 1190, 1194, 1195 [84 Cal.Rptr.2d 491].)

(New January 2006)