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Published April 29, 2010, 09:08 AM

When does discipline become a crime?

Frazee, Minn. (WDAY TV) - Prosecutors have charged a Frazee man with malicious punishment after allegedly spanking a 12-year old for fifteen minutes. The boy says it was difficult to sit for several days because of the pain. 37-year old Timothy Fowler is 6-foot-4, 235 pounds. He told law enforcement he didn't know how hard to spank.

Court documents show Fowler received an email saying the boy was disrespectful at school, and he took him behind his shed and spanked him, causing bruising that covered the boys entire buttocks and upper legs.

“On these types of investigations, they happen rapidly and thoroughly because of the intense ramifications of this type of charge.”

Fowler is not allowed to have contact with his son or daughter who or are believed to be living with their mother in Moorhead. It's legal in Minnesota to use reasonable force to punish your children, but when does discipline become a crime?

Tim Gordon/Becker County Sheriff: “It's emotionally draining.”

Blue pinwheels for child abuse awareness month blow ironically in the breeze as Becker County officials investigate another abuse case. Sheriff Tim Gordon says a spanking that leaves marks is a beating.

Mike Fritz: “Can be charged under endangerment, abuse, malicious punishment, assault...”

Attorneys take it from here, looking for four main things in a potential child abuse case. Was there an injury? If so, where is it on the body and how substantial? And how old is the child who received it? For example, you can be charged with a felony for causing just minor bruising to a four year old on the neck or higher.

Mike Fritz: “We're all looking for the same things here, and that's protecting the child from any future harm.”

Early on, the baton also passes to child protection services

Jenny: “Kids are so vulnerable, they want to be loved!”

Who want a potential the victim out of harm's way, even if abuse charges are only suspected. Usually siblings are removed from a potential abuser as well.

Jenny: “There's a lot of support and services available to help with parenting needs. It can be frustrating, but just having knowledge of different options to use like time outs, taking away privileges, just what is age appropriate.”

Those who don't follow the guidelines could end up with a max of 5 years in prison or a 10-thousand dollar fine.

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