2nd Degree Child Abuse: Everything You Need to Know
Michigan has some of the most intricate child abuse laws in the country. The state laws on child abuse are found under MCL 750.136b.
A conviction for child abuse has several direct and indirect consequences. Some of the direct consequences include statutory penalties, such as probation and/or prison time, ranging from a few days to life in prison. Indirect consequences include your name listed on the Michigan Child Abuse Registry, temporary or permanent removal of the child/children from home, and a destroyed reputation.
If you are under investigation for child abuse or are facing child abuse charges, the sooner you hire a lawyer for your case, the better your chances of getting a fair outcome will be.
Child abuse allegations can be complicated, therefore it is important to ensure that you get the best sex offender lawyers in Michigan with experience in the law regarding child abuse.
MICHIGAN CHILD ABUSE LAWS
In Michigan, child abuse is defined as harm or threatened harm to a child’s health or welfare. For conduct to qualify as child abuse, it has to be a non-accidental physical injury or mental injury to a child.
Examples of child abuse include sexual exploitation, sexual abuse (criminal sexual conduct directed at a child), or maltreatment by the child’s parent, guardian, teacher, teacher’s aide, clergy, or any other person responsible for a child’s health and physical well-being.
Under Michigan laws, child abuse offenses are split into four categories:
- First degree child abuse
- Second degree child abuse
- Third degree child abuse
- Fourth degree child abuse
2nd Degree Child Abuse
This guide focuses on second degree child abuse, and, from its definition, how it compares with the other degrees of child abuse, their penalties, and defenses.
SECOND DEGREE CHILD ABUSE DEFINITIONS
As used in MCL 750.136b(3):
“Child” (for purposes of child abuse) means a person who is less than 18 years of age.
“Cruel” means brutal, inhuman, sadistic, or that which torments a child.
“Omission” means a willful failure to provide food, clothing, or shelter necessary for a child’s welfare or willful abandonment of a child.
“Person” means a child’s parent, guardian, or any other person who cares for, has custody of, or has authority over a child, regardless of the length of time that a child is cared for, in the custody of, or subject to the authority of that person.
“Physical abuse” means an injury to a child’s physical condition resulting from hitting, kicking, shaking, pinching, and burning. It may leave bruises, cuts, or other marks and cause pain, broken bones, or internal injuries.
“Emotional abuse” is saying or doing things that make a child feel unloved, unwanted, unsafe, or worthless. It can range from yelling and threatening to ignoring the child and not giving love and support. It may not leave scars you can see, but the damage to a child is just as real.
“Sexual abuse” is any sexual contact between an adult and a child or between an older child and a younger child. Showing pornography to a child is a type of sexual abuse that would require a child pornography lawyer’s assistance.
“Neglect” happens when a child does not get the shelter, schooling, clothing, medical care, or protection he or she needs. Child neglect is just as serious as abuse and is in fact more common.
“Serious mental harm” means an injury to a child’s mental condition or welfare that is not necessarily permanent, but results in visibly demonstrable manifestations of a substantial disorder of thought or mood which significantly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life.
“Serious physical harm” means any physical injury to a child that seriously impairs the child’s health or physical well-being, including, but not limited to, brain damage, a skull or bone fracture, subdural hemorrhage or hematoma, dislocation, sprain, internal injury, poisoning, burn or scald, or severe cut.
PROVING SECOND DEGREE CHILD ABUSE IN COURT
According to MCL 750.136b(3), a person shall be guilty of child abuse in the second degree if the following circumstances exist:
- The person’s omission results in serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a minor or if their reckless acts result in serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a minor
- The person knowingly or intentionally engages in an act that puts a minor at the unreasonable risk of potential serious harm to a child’s mental condition or serious physical harm, whether harm results in injuries to the minor or not
- The person knowingly or intentionally commits a cruel act to a minor irrespective of whether physical harm results from the conduct
- The person is a licensee*
*A licensee is defined under MCL 722.111 as a partnership, association, corporation, firm, local or state body, non-governmental organization, or any person permitted and licensed to operate a child care organization.
SECOND DEGREE CHILD ABUSE PENALTIES
A second degree child abuse offense is the second most severe child abuse charge a person can face in Michigan. Consequently, the penalties are also significantly higher than a third degree child abuse charge or a fourth degree child abuse charge.
If you are convicted of second degree child abuse, you will be guilty of a felony punishable as follows:
- A prison termnot exceeding 10 years for a first time offender
- For second or subsequent convictions, the offender will be looking at not more than 20 years in prison
For the court to enhance a sentence for an offender with a prior conviction for second degree child abuse, or any other child abuse offense, the prior offense must be brought to the court’s attention by the prosecution. Prior conviction means an earlier convicted violation of any of the four degrees of child abuse mentioned under this section or a violation of a similar law in another jurisdiction.
When seeking to enhance the charges using a prior conviction, the prosecution must include a statement of prior convictions in the complaint and information.
In a separate hearing, the judge determines whether the presence of a prior conviction will be used to enhance the sentence. This hearing is not in front of the jury; it is after a guilty verdict when the offender is sentenced.
The prosecution must prove their case to the judge by providing evidence. Some of the evidence that the prosecution relies on to prove a prior conviction include:
- A copy of the previous offenses ruling
- A transcript of plea taking, pretrial, or sentencing
- A copy or information contained in the presentence report
- The defendant’s own statement
If you face a second degree child abuse charge, the penalties are severe. Typically, if charged with a child abuse offense, the jury, the judge and all parties involved will, more often than not, be biased towards the defendant. The tendency is to believe you are guilty because of the horrible nature of the charges against you involving a child.
To give yourself the best chance at beating your charges you must enlist a criminal defense attorney with years of experience in Michigan child abuse cases.
OTHER DEGREES OF CHILD ABUSE COMPARED TO SECOND DEGREE CHILD ABUSE
Classification of child abuse offenses are based on the severity of the abuse, with fourth degree child abuse being the least severe and first degree child abuse being the most severe.
FIRST DEGREE CHILD ABUSE
Under MCL 750.136b(2), a person is guilty of 1st degree child abuse if:
- The person knowingly or intentionally causes serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a child
Some examples of serious physical harm include a skull or bone fracture, brain damage, subdural hemorrhage or hematoma, sprain, dislocation, and internal injury.
Upon a conviction for first degree child abuse, the offender will be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for life or any term of years.
First degree child abuse offenses differ from second degree child abuse offenses in that for a first degree child abuse offense the acts leading to serious injury or mental harm are knowingly or intentionally caused.
THIRD DEGREE CHILD ABUSE
Under MCL 750.136b(5), a person shall be guilty of child abuse in the 3rd degree if:
- The person knowingly or intentionally inflicts physical harm to the child’s welfare
- The person knowingly or intentionally engages in an act or actions that under the circumstances poses a serious unreasonable risk of causing physical or mental harm to a child
For a person to actually get convicted for this type of child abuse offense, the act must result in actual harm.
Upon a conviction for child abuse 3rd degree, the offender will be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years for a first-time offender. For a second or subsequent offense, the offender will be guilty of a felony punishable with imprisonment of not more than five years.
This offense differs from a second degree child abuse offense in the severity of the physical harm. A second degree child abuse charge requires serious physical or mental harm, while the requirement for third degree child abuse is just physical harm.
FOURTH DEGREE CHILD ABUSE
Under MCL 750.136b(7), a person shall be guilty of child abuse in the 4th degree if:
- The person‘s omission or a person’s reckless act causes physical harm to a child
- The person engages in an act or actions that under the circumstances poses a serious risk of harming or injuring the child irrespective of whether harm results from the conduct or not
Upon a conviction with a violation of child abuse 4th degree, a person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders will be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by not more than two years in prison.
NEW MICHIGAN CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT REGISTRY LAWS
In 2013, Erica Hammell was notified by her ex-husband that their one-year-old child Wyatt was in the hospital due to abuse by his girlfriend, which resulted in massive brain hemorrhage. Luckily, the boy survived the ordeal, but the offender, Rachel Edwards, was charged with the offense. She pleaded no contest and was sentenced to a prison term of 20 months to 10 years. Sadly this was not the first time she had a child abuse conviction. According to Macomb county records, she had previously served probation twice for child abuse.
This development exposed the inadequacies in the Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry that has been in existence since 1975. Following the incident, lawmakers embarked on a collaboration with Hammell to create what’s now known as “Wyatt’s Law.” Wyatt’s law was approved April 28, 2021 by the Michigan Senate as Bill 0371.
The bill will create a computerized Michigan Child Abuse and Neglect Registry to make it easy for the public to identify convicted and habitual child abusers.
According to the new rules, the computerized registry has two sections similar to the Michigan Sex Offender Registry for convicted criminal sexual conduct offenders, the public and the private database.
The public registry shall include:
- The offender’s legal names and aliases, tribal and ethnic names, nicknames, and any other names used to refer to the individual
- The person’s date of birth
- A summary of all child abuse offenses the person has ever been charged with
- Information detailing the reason or the offense for which a person is listed
The private database shall include all the information in the public database, but shall also include:
- The offender’s social security number
- The complainant or their identity
- Any arrests not relating to the offense in question
- The offender’s travel and immigration documents
- The offender’s email and instant messaging addresses, including their login credentials
- The offender’s driving license details and their legal identification documents
While the law may not be operational at the moment, its enactment will affect individuals convicted of child abuse before its execution. If you were convicted of a child abuse offense two years ago, your information will still be reflected in the public and the private database once the law is enacted.
SECOND DEGREE CHILD SEX ABUSE DEFENSE
Cases involving children as the complainant can get very complicated. Your only chance of getting a fair outcome will largely depend on the kind of defense you will put up, with the help of a skilled criminal defense lawyer.
Some of the defenses you may use for child abuse include:
According to MCL 750.136b(10), it is an affirmative defense to a prosecution if the defendant’s conduct was in response to an act of domestic violence. The responsibility of proving domestic violence lies with the defendant. The defendant will not be guilty of child abuse.
False allegations of child abuse are very rampant, especially after severed romantic relationships. With the help of a defense attorney who is well versed in Michigan’s child abuse laws, you can appropriately figure out how to beat false allegations.
The worst mistake you can make is to face false allegations on your own. You must hire an attorney who knows what they are doing when it comes specifically to child abuse allegations.
NOT CHILD ABUSE
Some professionals, like doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, the clergy, and social workers, are obligated by law to report all cases of suspected child abuse. (Learn here: what is a mandatory reporter?)
When making a report, these professionals often depend largely on the physical signs. Meanwhile, a child can sustain injuries that may resemble child abuse while it is not child abuse at all.
If you have been charged under such circumstances, your defense team can use “not child abuse” as a defense strategy.
LET ATTORNEY NICOLE BLANK BECKER HELP YOU WITH YOUR CASE
Like other criminal sexual conduct charges, child abuse is best left to the experts, such as a lawyer who has years and years of experience working with children and families accused of child abuse.
Nicole Blank Becker of Blank Law, PC is one such lawyer. Before establishing her Michigan-based criminal defense law firm, Nicole prosecuted cases in both Detroit, Michigan and Macomb, Michigan. At the end of her prosecutor career, she served as the Chief of the Sex Unit and Child Abuse Unit for years.
This is why Nicole’s experience in this field is extremely significant and works in your favor. Whether you are facing child abuse charges or criminal sexual conduct charges (CSC degrees), Nicole Blank Becker has the insight needed to build the strongest defense possible.
Due to Nicole’s 20 plus years of experience, she can look at your case from both sides (the prosecution and the defense’s side) and figure out the best strategy for you. With Nicole, you can be sure that you are getting the best representation, as she is a true pitbull, in terms of trial and negotiations. She welcomes you to bring your stress to her, and she will take that stress, put it on her shoulders, and fight for your innocence.
With every client she takes, Nicole focuses on building a solid attorney-client relationship so you feel safe when sharing the details of your case and knowing she has your back.
Don’t let false charges of child abuse or criminal sexual conduct ruin your life. Get in touch with Nicole Blank Becker now by calling Blank Law, PC at (248) 515-6583 or filling out this online form to book a free consultation.