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Child Abuse is taken very seriously in Michigan.  Child Abuse is no laughing matter.  The penalties for Child Abuse are severe.  The child’s injuries can range from bruises to brain damage.  If there are allegations of Child Abuse, and there are other children in your home, CPS may now get involved.  It is equally possible that CPS is the one who reported the suspected Child Abuse to the police.   CPS will do their job and figure out if you should be charged with neglect. Thats not all, the state will determine if you should be charged with the crime of Child Abuse. 

The highly publicized, social stigma and breakdown of relationships that result from being charged with Child Abuse can feel insermountable. The realization that something may have occurred to a child under your supervision is scary enough, but you also have to worry about the real potential of being charged with Child Abuse.

Child Abuse is split into four (4) different degrees.  First Degree Child Abuse is considered the worst offense of all four.  First Degree Child Abuse carries a potential for Life in prison.  Fourth Degree Child Abuse is the least sever of all four Chidl Abuse charges.  

Oftentimes a child in a Child Abuse case is not old enough to speak for themselves.  In Child Abuse cases, unlike most Criminal Sexual Abuse cases, the child is not required to testify, or do anything.  There is no requirement that a child testify at court, nor is there a requirement for the child to be able to articulate the abuse that is being claimed.  The state can and will use circumstantial evidence to prove their case. 

There is great empathy and sympathy for a child who has been abused. That is why you need someone in your corner who understands the inner workings and defenses to Child Abuse.  Blank Law, PC has a long history of handling Child Abuse cases.  Not only was Nicole the Chief of the Sex Unit in Macomb County for years, but she was also the Chief of the Child Abuse Unit for years.  When it comes to Child Abuse, no matter what degree, Nicole will use  her years of experience and knowledge to vigorously fight for you.

Below you will find a breakdown of First Degree Child Abuse, Second Degree Child Abuse, Third Degree Child Abuse and Fourth Degree Child Abuse.

DEFINITIONS 
CHILD ABUSE 

  • 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. 
  • 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 or 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 includes 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.
  • 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 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.

COMMON QUESTIONS
CHILD ABUSE CHARGES

THE CHILD ABUSE LAWS IN MICHIGAN SEEM VERY STRICT, AM I ABLE TO USE PHYSICALLY DISCIPLINE WITH MY CHILD? 

This section does not prohibit a parent or guardian, or other person permitted by law or authorized by the parent or guardian, from taking steps to reasonably discipline a child, including the use of reasonable force.

My THREE (3) YEAR OLD DAUGHTER IS TRYING TO WALK AND SHE FALLS ALL THE TIME.  SHE GETS BRUISES WHEN SHE FALLS.  AM I GOING TO BE CHARGED WITH CHILD ABUSE? 

It is understood that an active child is expected to suffer some bruising, and possibly even some broken bones.  It is the severity and the surrounding circumstances that raise questions of abuse. 

I WAS CHARGED WITH CHILD ABUSE. HOW DO I EXPLAIN THAT IT WAS AN ACCIDENT WHEN MY FOUR (4) YEAR OLD BROKE HER THIGH BONE? 

Expert witnesses are typically used by both the prosecutor and the defense in order to explain the surrounding circumstances of the injuries to the child.

MY NINE (9) MONTH OLD SON BROKE HIS RIB.  I HAVE NO IDEA HOW.  I BROUGHT HIM TO THE DOCTOR FOR HIS WELLNESS CHECK AND WHEN THE DOCTOR DID AN X-RAY OF HIS CHEST, THEY DISCOVERED IT.  I NEVER NOTICED HIM TO BE IN PAIN OR WINCE WHEN I WOULD PICK HIM UP OR PUT HIM OWN.  WHAT DO I DO?

X-rays are just one example of the use of circumstantial evidence by the prosecution to charge the crime of Child Abuse.  By looking at x-ray images for the existence of fractures or healing fractures, experts are able to give a more concrete time frame for when an injury occurred to that child.  A single x-ray may assist a prosecutor in determining whether/not to charge you with Child Abuse.  Hospital records are a perfect example of circumstantial evidence often used by the prosecutor to determine if a charge of Child Abuse is appropriate or not. 

FIRST DEGREE CHILD ABUSE

The accused may be charged with Child Abuse in the First Degree if the accused “knowingly” or “intentionally” caused serious physical or serious mental harm to a child. 

First Degree Child Abuse may be charged when there are very serious injuries to a child that cannot be explained away, but for the “knowing” or “intentional” acts caused by the accused.

First Degree Child Abuse is a specific intent crime.  Therefore, the state must prove that the accused “intended” the serious injury. The language in the First Degree Child Abuse statute requires more from the accused than an intent to commit an act.

For purposes of First Degree Child Abuse: “knowingly” means the same as “intentionally”.

BLANK LAW, PC EXAMPLE
FIRST DEGREE CHILD ABUSE

The accused was charged with First Degree Child abuse.  Expert testimony considered with the facts as given by the accused, was sufficient to establish that the accused shook his nine-week-old infant and the shaking of the nine-week-old infant caused the infant’s injuries, including subdural hematomas. 

PENALTY 
FIRST DEGREE CHILD ABUSE

First Degree Child Abuse is a felony punishable by imprisonment for life or any term of years.

SECOND DEGREE CHILD ABUSE

A person is guilty of Second Degree Child Abuse if any of the following apply:

  • A person’s omission causes serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a child 
  • If the person’s reckless act causes serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a child.
  • The person knowingly or intentionally commits an act likely to cause serious physical or mental harm to a child regardless of whether harm results.
  • The person knowingly or intentionally commits an act that is cruel to a child regardless of whether harm results.

Second Degree Child Abuse is a general intent crime.

Second Degree Child Abuse differs from First Degree Child Abuse because Second Degree Child Abuse requires the state to prove that the accused intended to commit an act, not that that particular act would cause serious physical or mental harm to a child. 

Second Degree Child Abuse may be charged if the evidence shows that the accused’s act could probably result in serious harm to a child, regardless of whether the harm actually occurs. 

The state must show evidence on the record of a reckless act taken by the accused that caused the child to suffer serious physical abuse.  If the state cannot do so, a charge for Second Degree Child Abuse is not appropriate. 

BLANK LAW, PC EXAMPLE:
SECOND DEGREE CHILD ABUSE

The accused led police on a high-speed chase while his children were unrestrained in the vehicle.  The accused’s actions of driving a car, with his two children who did not have their seatbelts on and speeding was enough to charge the accused with two counts of Second Degree Child Abuse.  The state’s position was that the accused’s actions were likely to result in serious harm to his young children.

PENALTY 
SECOND DEGREE CHILD ABUSE

Child abuse in the second degree is a felony punishable by imprisonment as follows:

For a first offense, not more than 10 years.

For a second or subsequent offense, not more than 20 years.

DEFENSE
SECOND DEGREE CHILD ABUSE

A parent who acts in good faith with an honest belief that a given discipline is done for the benefit of the child will not be subjected to judicial intervention; however, a showing that the punishment was cruel and unreasonably severe will negate any claim of good faith on behalf of the parent.  

THIRD DEGREE CHILD ABUSE

A person is guilty of Child Abuse in the Third Degree if any of the following apply:

  • The person knowingly or intentionally causes physical harm to a child.
  • The person knowingly or intentionally commits an act that under the circumstances poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to a child, and the act results in physical harm to a child.

The differences between Child Abuse in the First Degree and Child Abuse in the Third Degree is the severity of the physical harm.  First Degree Child Abuse is a much more “serious injury”. 

Third Degee Child Abuse is typicaly a necessarily included lesser offense of First Degree Child Abuse.  Therefore, a jury would not only be instructed on the original charge of Child Abuse in the First Degree, but upon a proper request and proper facts, the jury will be instructed, and asked to consider, the lesser included offense of Third Degree Child Abuse.

BLANK LAW, PC EXAMPLE:
THIRD DEGREE CHILD ABUSE

The beating of a child, with a belt, causing bruises and scars justifies a charge of Third Degree Child Abuse.

If the state produces evidence that the accused spanked his/her child with enough force to actually cause substantial bruising and to dislodge a blood clot from her nose, the accused could be charged with Third Degree Child Abuse.

PENALTY 
THIRD DEGREE CHILD ABUSE

Child abuse in the third degree is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years.

DEFENSE
THIRD DEGREE CHILD ABUSE

A parent who acts in good faith with an honest belief that a given discipline is done for the benefit of the child will not be subjected to judicial intervention; however, a showing that the punishment was cruel and unreasonably severe will negate any claim of good faith on behalf of the parent.

FOURTH DEGREE CHILD ABUSE

A person is guilty of child abuse in the fourth degree if any of the following apply:

  • The person’s omission or reckless act causes physical harm to a child.
  • The person knowingly or intentionally commits an act that under the circumstances poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to a child, regardless of whether physical harm results.

PENALTY 
FOURTH DEGREE CHILD ABUSE

Child abuse in the fourth degree is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year.

DEFENSE
FOURTH DEGREE CHILD ABUSE

A parent who acts in good faith with an honest belief that a given discipline is done for the benefit of the child will not be subjected to judicial intervention; however, a showing that the punishment was cruel and unreasonably severe will negate any claim of good faith on behalf of the parent.

 

3150 Livernois Rd. Suite 126
Troy, MI 48083
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law@nicoleblankbecker.com

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