COVID-19 UPDATE: Jason R. Antoine, Attorney at Law, remains open remotely to serve our community and assist them with their needs. We can be reached by phone, e-mail, contact form, and video conference.

Child Abuse

The State of Delaware has strict penalties for abusing children. Corporal punishment of children has essentially been criminalized in Delaware. In my defense of child abuse cases I have seen good people and good parents prosecuted criminally for disciplining their children. Many times parents were good intentioned and did not know their actions were against the law. In Delaware a child is defined as any individual under 18 years old.

What is Child Abuse in Delaware?

In Delaware you are not allowed to

  • Throw a child
  • Kick a child
  • Hit a child with a closed fist
  • Risk serious physical injury or death to a child
  • Deprive a child of food or medicine
  • Cause mental distress to a child
  • Cause any physical injury1

Delaware law states that parents and guardians are justified to use reasonable and moderate force in disciplining their children if it is to benefit the child or prevent misconduct. The law also states that parents cannot cause physical injury which is defined as “any impairment of physical condition or pain.” Physical injury has been interpreted by the authorities as “leaving a mark.” Put simply, Delaware law states that you may spank your child for punishment but cannot leave a mark or cause the child any pain. Obviously, the law is conflicted. Traditionally, the purpose of spanking is causing some degree of pain as punishment. Based on experience, if you spank, whip or use corporal punishment on a child in Delaware you could be prosecuted for child abuse. In the typical fact pattern, child abuse is reported by a school psychologist, school administrator, teacher or ex-spouse after viewing marks or injury on the child.

Child Abuse Third Degree2

Cases involving minor physical injuries (bruising) from spanking or whipping are considered Child abuse in the third degree cases. Child abuse 3rd is considered a class A violent misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is one year and jail and a $2300 fine. The sentencing guideline calls for one year of probation. If convicted, you will have a criminal record and likely placed on the Delaware child abuse registry for 7 years.

Child Abuse Second Degree3

Child abuse second is a class G nonviolent felony and occurs when you cause physical injury to a child that is 1) less than 3 years old; or 2) has intellectual or developmental disabilities or 3) you cause physical injury to a child by using a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. The maximum penalty is 2 years in jail. The presumptive sentence is 1 year probation. If convicted, you will likely be on the child abuse registry for life in ineligible to work in school/daycare or medical facility.

Child Abuse First Degree4

Child abuse 1st degree occurs when one causes “serious physical injury” to a child. Serious physical injury occurs when you risk death, or the child is disfigured or their health is impaired. Child abuse 1st is a class B nonviolent felony. There is a mandatory minimum of 2 years in jail. The sentencing range is 2-25 years. The maximum penalty is 25 years in jail. If convicted, you would be on the child protective registry for life.

Contact Us

Contact Jason R. Antoine, Delaware child abuse defense lawyer at (302) 482-4802 for a free initial consultation if you or someone you know has been charged with child abuse in Delaware. Child abuse is a serious offense in this State and can lead to a permanent criminal record, exclusion from schools, child functions and certain sporting events. Jason has successfully had child abuse cases dismissed or nolle prossed by the State of Delaware.5 There are certain methods to handling a child abuse case that may be able to keep you or your family member from having a permanent criminal record and keep you off of probation and the child protective registry.




1 This list is not exhaustive.

2 11 Del. C. §1103

3 11 Del. C. §1103A

4 11 Del. C. §11003B

5 Past results do not guarantee results in future cases. All cases are different.