Law Office of
Rhett Braniff

Injury to a Child

The Law Office of Rhett Braniff successfully defended our client charged with Injury to a Child. The allegation was that our client used a TASER to discipline 2 foster children in his care. 

Our client denied the allegations, and we were able to successfully prove to a jury that the allegations were false. Our office retained an expert to show that the conduct alleged would have certainly caused a visible injury and neither of the children showed injuries. We were also able to find an independent witness that testified that the alleged victims told him the allegations were false.

We were thrilled to be able to help our client avoid a felony conviction for a charge he swore he did not commit.

Reasonable discipline?

An interesting question came up in our preparation for trial. The Texas Penal Code allows for the use of force to discipline a child. The conduct must be reasonable under the circumstances, and a jury should look at the conduct of the child, the type of force used, and the age of the children.

I began to analyze whether using a TASER would be reasonable discipline in any case. This was not our defense, as our client denied the allegations. But would it ever be reasonable?

To a person, everyone I talked to immediately said that they would never consider it reasonable. Why? When I was younger, one of my cousins was sent to a military academy as punishment for his behavior. If you were a 16 year old boy, and were given the choice of a strike with a TASER versus a year away from home at a military academy. What would you choose? Personally, I find the TASER, and the few seconds of pain far more reasonable than being sent away from your home, friends and family for a year.

What if you were 12 and given the choice of 3 strikes with a belt over one use of a TASER? Again, personally, I am taking the TASER. As preparation for the trial, I used a TASER on myself to experience the pain it caused. It hurt, but I have had far more painful things happen to me.

It’s an interesting question because our gut reaction is to say the TASER is entirely unreasonable. But once we allow for some level of painful discipline, we need to really evaluate how painful each form of discipline is. Corporal punishment may not be for you as a parent, but it is allowed under the law.

Jurors have the difficult job of working through these decisions. How would you resolve this issue? What behavior and age would make you find a TASER to be reasonable?