In US vs. Ziots, 36 MJ 1007, (ACMR 1993), the Court found that the accused used
excessive force in disciplining his three year old stepson even though he acted out of a proper parental
disciplinary motive. When the child refused to put away his toys when told to do so and talked back to
the accused, he grabbed the child's cheeks and squeezed. As the child squirmed, the accused squeezed
harder. Later, the child denied taking out a grease gun and squirting grease on the floor. For these acts
of misconduct, the accused hit the child with his fist in the face near his eyes and on his back four times.
As the child squirms, the accused hit him in the rib cage. The accused then told his stepson to stand in
the corner for a specified period. The child stood for a while, but strayed away from the corner. As
punishment for this misconduct, the accused pushed the child back into the corner causing him to hit his
head and stomach on the wall. On the basis of this evidence, the Court upheld the accused's conviction
In US vs. Gowadia, 34 MJ 714 (ACMR 1992), the Court found the accused properly
disciplined his twelve year old stepson by striking him on the back of his legs with a military uniform
belt with the buckle and metal tip removed. However, the Court upheld the accused's aggravated assault
conviction on the same child based on the accused's unusual "counseling techniques." The accused was
properly counseling his stepson for poor school performance and failure to complete his assigned
chores. When the child failed to respond appropriately, the accused became frustrated. With the
assistance of his wife, he tied up the child's hands and feet and placed a plastic bag over his head for a
"short time." Thereafter, he removed the bag and the restraints and continued the counseling. The
actions went beyond reasonable and moderate force necessary for parental discipline the Court
Finally, in US vs. Scofield, 33 MJ 857 (ACMR 1991), the accused disciplined his eight
year old son who repeatedly came home late from school. With each violation, the accused gradually
increased the degree of punishment. At first he spoke to his son. Then he sent him to bed early.
Eventually, he withheld certain privileges from his son. These disciplinary measures were unsuccessful.
As a result, when the child came home from school late the last time, the accused spanked him on the
buttocks and thighs between six and ten times with a leather belt. Meanwhile, the accused's seven year
old daughter stole earrings from her babysitter and denied any involvement in the theft. After she too
failed to respond appropriately to other corrective action, the accused used the leather belt on her
buttocks and thighs. The Court found the accused acted with a proper disciplinary motive with both his
children. Further, the Court found no evidence of serious injury or bruises as a result of this discipline.
His actions did not create a substantial risk of excessive injury. Therefore, the Court set aside the
accused's assault convictions.
The courts in all these cases resolve the use of force issue by looking at the age of the
child, where and with what did the accused hit the child, and what he used to strike the child.