Adrian Peterson, running back for the Minnesota Vikings, is expected to play in Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. The Vikings announced Monday that he would be allowed to play pending the outcome of child abuse charges filed against him on Friday in a Montgomery County, Texas court. This announcement has caused a considerable amount of controversy, with some supporting the team's decision and others calling for Peterson's indefinite suspension.
The NFL player was benched during last Sunday's game against the New England Patriots, after he was indicted by a Texas grand jury on felony charges of child abuse on Friday. Peterson was booked at the Montgomery County jail and released on $15,000 bond, according to a spokesman for the sheriff's office. He was charged with causing injury to a child aged 14 or younger, in connection with a May 2014 incident where he allegedly spanked his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch made from a tree branch, to such a degree that it caused visible injuries.
If found guilty, Peterson could face up to 2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
This case brings up a number of important issues. One such issue pertains to the child abuse charges themselves. Though each state has its own specific implementation of child abuse laws, parents have a right to discipline their children as they see fit – to a reasonable degree. An extremely fine line exists between what may be considered reasonable discipline and what may be seen by some as physical abuse.
There is currently no federal law prohibiting spanking, and 19 states still allow for corporal punishment (physical punishment) at schools. Texas, where Peterson was born and raised, is one such state. Corporal punishment, defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics as "the application of some form of physical pain in response to undesirable behavior," is itself a subject of much controversy and is far less common than it was decades ago. About 94% of parents approved of the practice in 1968, but only around 50% approved by 1999. Approval is likely even lower at this time.
For some, the line between child abuse and corporal punishment can be drawn at leaving no lasting physical marks. Many states allow for corporal punishment as long as parents do not cause bodily injury or leave marks behind. Peterson's charges are connected with images that the alleged incident caused visible injury. It is possible that the player's alleged actions could be seen as negligent, as opposed to carried out with the intention of causing bodily injury.
The outcome of this case will depend on the precise manner in which Texas legislation and case law are interpreted in regard to what is considered reasonable corporal punishment in comparison to the evidence brought forth against the NFL player.
Peterson's case also serves to show just how much of an impact child abuse allegations and charges can have on one's reputation and livelihood. The running back was benched for one game, but it appears that he will be allowed to play for the Vikings while his case is being decided. His first court appearance is scheduled for October 8, but his case may not go to trial until next year.
In spite of his remaining in the NFL, Peterson has faced other repercussions related to the indictment. A prominent hotel chain announced that it would suspend its sponsorship of the Vikings, and some stores have pulled Peterson's merchandise from their shelves. Another company that was working with the player to promote its EpiPen for the treatment of allergic reactions also announced that it is no longer working with Peterson. Depending on how the case progresses, the player could lose sponsorships and endorsement deals.
For more information on child abuse, corporal punishment and domestic violence charges, call a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer at Lessem & Newstat. The manner in which these cases are approached can make all the difference for any person accused of such conduct, whether or not he or she is a celebrity like Adrian Peterson. With the right strategy and by actively protecting your constitutional rights, it is possible to secure a reduction of charges, acquittal or even dismissal. Call our offices today to learn more.