District Court, Bountiful Department The Honorable Glen R.
Dawson No. 161800370
L. Wiggins, Attorney for Appellant
L. Fordham, Attorney for Appellee
David N. Mortensen authored this Opinion, in which Judges
Kate Appleby and Jill M. Pohlman concurred.
Utah's criminal law recognizes that a parent may
discipline a child. Criminal sanctions may attach, however,
when parental discipline exceeds the bounds of reasonableness
or where serious physical injury results. After a bench
trial, during which the court heard evidence that Nathan
David Baize spanked his four-year-old son with enough force
to leave a bruise in the shape of a handprint, the court
found Baize guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of misdemeanor
level child abuse. Baize appeals, claiming the court
misconstrued the facts and misapplied the law. We affirm.
Incident of Abuse
In late June 2016, Baize had his four-year-old son (Victim)
for weekend parent-time. Baize and Victim's mother
(Mother), are divorced and have joint custody of Victim.
Victim spends every other weekend with Baize.
On the weekend in question, Victim had been acting up, and
Baize and Mother exchanged emails about this behavior. Mother
recalled that the emails described Victim as "yelling
and screaming, washing out. He was saying terrible things, he
was going to hurt people. He was mad. He wanted to go home.
He was upset. Completely distraught."
Victim was "throwing temper tantrums, using foul
language, [and] saying that he wanted [Baize] dead" on
the day of the abuse. The bad behavior escalated during a car
ride to a grocery store. Victim began kicking and punching
his grandmother, who was with Baize and Victim. It took about
an hour to calm down Victim enough to get him strapped in his
car seat. Even then, Victim continued to jump up and down,
"slamming his rear end on the bottom of the car
Once they got home, Victim continued to fight with Baize.
After trying various disciplinary interventions, Baize
determined that his last resort was to spank Victim. Baize
put Victim over his knee and warned him that he was going to
be spanked unless he calmed down. When Victim continued to
swear and tell Baize that he hated him, Baize spanked him one
time. Baize gave Victim additional warnings, and then spanked
him a second and third time.
Eventually, Baize called Mother and asked that she pick up
Victim several hours earlier than the planned exchange. While
changing Victim's clothes that evening, Mother noticed
bruising on his bottom. When she asked Victim what had
happened, he responded, "Don't talk to me about
this," and requested that everyone leave his room. A few
minutes later, Victim disclosed to Mother what had happened.
Mother immediately called the Division of Child and Family
The next morning, Mother took photographs of the bruising on
Victim's bottom, one of which was introduced as evidence.
Mother testified that the photograph accurately depicted the
injuries she saw on Victim: "I see fingerprints. I see,
that are bruised, bruising, fingerprints. There are lines on
his bottom, bruising. There [are] little spots on his bottom
that are bruised." Mother stated that she "was
pretty sick to [her] stomach" when she saw Victim's
An investigator from DCFS came by the day after the spanking
and advised Mother to call the police about the incident. A
detective (Detective) from the Bountiful City Police
Department was assigned to the case. Detective arranged an
interview for Victim at the Children's Justice Center
(CJC Interview). After viewing the photographs and hearing
Victim's CJC Interview, Detective determined that he
needed to interview Baize.
Detective testified that the photograph introduced at trial
depicted signs of redness consistent with diaper rash on
Victim's bottom, but he also observed that it showed a
yellowish bruise in the shape of "a finger or a
handprint." Detective noted that there were no reports
indicating that Victim needed medical attention for injuries
related to the abuse. Detective also testified that Baize
appeared to be in control of what he was doing when he
Bountiful City (the City) charged Baize with child abuse in
violation of Utah Code section 76-5-109(3)(c). Baize pled ...