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Criminal: Babysitters Cannot Assert Parental Privilege Defense
Posted in Litigation

Today, the Indiana Court of Appeals addressed an issue of first impression in Indiana law:  whether a babysitter may avail himself of the parental privilege defense for disciplining a child in his care. 

In McReynolds v. State, despite the appellant having waived the issue, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s conclusion that McReynolds – who lived in the mother’s home but “was neither a stepparent nor romantically involved with” the child’s mother and provided babysitting services in exchange for a place to stay – could not avail himself of the parental privilege defense in response to the allegation that he committed a class D felony battery of one of the children under his watch. 

The court analyzed its opinion in Dayton v. State, 501 N.E.2d 482 (Ind. Ct. App. 1986), cited by both parties in support of their respective positions, and observed that, under Dayton’s reasoning, “some custodians have the right to use reasonable corporal punishment, but only those custodians who are persons in loco parentis.”  The court explained that McReynolds “did not act as a father figure,” “did not have parental responsibilities,” and “was subject to [the mother’s] direction.”  The court concluded McReynolds “was a babysitter;” he was “not a person in loco parentis.”

The court further found that, even if McReynolds was entitled to assert the parental privilege defense, the force used in this case was “disproportionate to the offense,” as it resulted in a seven-year-old child who had wet his pants receiving open wounds that required a two-day hospitalization.

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