(Originally Published May 2005)
By Observer Staff
Lincoln County, Oregon – District Attorney Bernice Barnett seems to be ignoring a law passed by the Oregon legislature. Oregon is one of many states that specifically allow a parent or guardian to use spanking as a reasonable discipline. Oregon Revised Statute 161.205 reads as follows:
“The use of physical force upon another person that would otherwise constitute an offence is justifiable and not criminal under any of the following circumstances: (1) A parent, guardian or other person entrusted with the care and supervision of a minor or an incompetent person may use reasonable physical force upon such minor…when and to the extent the person reasonably believes it necessary to maintain discipline or to promote the welfare of the minor or incompetent person.”
Parents in Lincoln County Jailed for Disciplining Their Child – Spanking
In a supposed cost-cutting effort, and to expedite their case loads, fathers and mothers are often persuaded by multiple felony charges to accept a plea bargain rather than face years in prison. For instance, in some cases when there is more than one child present during a disciplinary spanking, one more felony is added due to the fact that another child may have been aware that a spanking was occurring to their errant sibling.
Parents are Barred From Their Home
Parents charged with a crime for spanking their child are subjected to the possibility of imprisonment and fines if they have any contact with their spouse or children during the case, without the permission of the state. For a parent to send their son or daughter a birthday card would be considered by DA Barrett to be “interference with a state’s witness.” Notice who now possesses ownership of the child. Additionally, the “non-abusive” spouse is usually pressured to testify against their spouse, or face losing their children to the state!
Malicious Prosecution Damage is Permanent
Regrettably, many of the people charged with abuse for spanking cannot afford an attorney so they are given a court appointed lawyer. Generally, the court appointed lawyers have no financial motivator to “defend their client zealously” as hypocritically defined by the Oregon State Bar Association. In addition, the Public Defender’s office most always has a heavy case load making it difficult for court appointed counsel to devote much time and energy to each case. The routine for the court appointed lawyer is to work with the DA to obtain a plea-bargain.
For Fathers and Mother charged with abuse and able to afford their own attorney the cost is generally $5,000.00 to even $20-$30 thousand to defend their good name as a result of spanking their child.
The financial burden on these families is enormous and often felt years later, as they pay down a mortgage on the family home because of false charges stemming from a warranted spanking.
The consequences of failing to mount an adequate defense, or accepting a plea-bargain is extreme. Research has shown that the victims of this type of malicious prosecution are often barred for life from owning a firearm. They are also permanently labeled a “domestic abuser.” A false arrest and conviction leaves a family in shambles, the charged person a felon and the family broke and separated. It actually leaves the disobedient child in a position of authority over the parent, knowing the parent cannot discipline them. This often ruins the child and eventually creates another felon for the state to deal with.
Is Bernice Barrett, and the State, Motivated by State and Federal Dollars
Are abuse charges enticing to Children’s Services and prosecutors? Every time the number of abuse cases rise, more dollars are awarded.
The US~Observer finds the practice of prosecuting loving parents doing their parental duties as an abuse of the system and it is an egregious abuse of power by the Lincoln County District Attorney’s Office.