Ask a sheriff: Malicious punishment of a child – what does that charge mean?

A. You are unfortunately aware of various news media articles about parents and caregivers that make headlines due to their treatment of children in their surroundings. Possibly it is someone that has thrown a child down because of their frustration with a child or maybe a punishment of holding a heavy item, such as a milk jug, up in the air for a lengthy period of time. These, and many more unfortunate incidents, are considered Malicious Punishment of a Child, Minnesota State Statute 609.337.

In the statute, a parent, legal guardian or caretaker who, by an intentional act or a series of intentional acts with respect to a child, evidences unreasonable force or cruel discipline that is excessive under the circumstances is guilty of malicious punishment of a child and may be sentenced to a gross misdemeanor (not more than one year in jail and/or $3,000 fine) or a felony (up to 10  years in jail and/or no more than $20,000 in fines), depending on the age and injuries sustained to the juvenile.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Please continue to be vigilant for our children, not only in your own homes, but for the youth that surround you in your daily lives, so that they may lead healthy, happy lives with boundless encouragement to be positive members of our community.
— Joel Brott, Sherburne County sheriff