Constitutional Law

Disciplining son with a belt is a constitutional right, prosecutor says in bid to get charge tossed

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A West Virginia prosecutor maintains he has a constitutional right to discipline his son with a belt.

Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants is seeking dismissal of a misdemeanor domestic battery charge against him for allegedly striking his 11-year-old son with a leather belt, report the Charleston Gazette and WSAZ. Prosecutors allege Plants’ son suffered a six-to seven-inch bruise when he was struck more than 10 times in February.

Plants has said he struck his son only three or four times and the discipline lasted no more than 20 seconds, according to the criminal complaint. In the motion to dismiss, Plants’ lawyer says his client was “acting within a constitutionally protected right to control his child; and under West Virginia law there is no liability from the reasonable use of corporal punishment for disciplinary purposes.”

“The intent here was to discipline a child out of love and guidance, not to injure the child,” the motion says. Plants didn’t intend to strike his son with the edge of the belt, which caused the U-shaped bruise, according to the motion. “After all, there were allegedly multiple spanks, but only one bruise.”

The charges stem from a complaint filed by Plants’ ex-wife, Allison Plants, who says she learned of the beating when she overheard her younger son ask about his brother’s injury. According to the complaint, Mark Plants hit his son with a belt because he had shoved his stepbrother off a scooter. The boy told police that after his father struck him, his father stood him in front of his stepbrother. Plants allegedly asked his current wife, “Do you think I whipped him enough?”

Plants’ married his former secretary after Allison Plants filed for divorce in 2012.

In an editorial, the Charleston Gazette says Mark Plants should resign.

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