Criminal child abuse refers to the neglect and abuse of minors. It is not restricted to physical violence, but includes psychological maltreatment and sexual violence of children. It is one of the most recurring offenses in the world. Every year, 3.6 million child abuse cases are reported in the U.S., and approximately five children die daily of this crime.
Federal laws contain minimum actions or behaviors amounting to child abuse and neglect. According to the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), as amended by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, child abuse is any act or failure by a parent or caretaker resulting in death, severe emotional or physical harm, or child sexual abuse or exploitation of a child.
It may also be defined as an action or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of danger to a minor. These definitions refer to parents and caregivers in particular, and a child under this legislation is someone below 18 or an unemancipated minor.
Child Abuse Charges
Federal law defines child abuse and neglect, but states also have their own definitions within their criminal laws. Child abuse may be a misdemeanor or felony under Michigan law, depending on the degree of the offense.
Child abuse charges in Michigan fall under four degrees; thus, a person could be charged with the following child abuse charges in Michigan:
A person, including a parent, teacher, caregiver, member of the clergy, or any other individual responsible for a child’s welfare, may be charged under Michigan law if the child is intentionally physically or emotionally harmed.
Michigan law does not prevent parents, guardians, or other people authorized by law or the child’s parent from taking reasonable actions to discipline their children. The law also allows them to exercise reasonable force in disciplining a child. However, child abuse occurs when force is excessive, the child suffers a physical injury, or is emotionally harmed.
Mandatory reporting laws require anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect to report it to law enforcement authorities. You may be arrested if someone makes such a report. You may also be arrested if your child, ward, or other children under your supervision suffer physical harm, neglect, or emotional trauma resulting from abuse.
There is a high chance that Child Protective Services (CPS) will be involved in a child abuse case. Usually, Child Protective Services investigate the abuse and decide whether to charge you with neglect. In addition, they may report child abuse to the police, and you might face criminal charges.
Legal systems impose strict penalties on people guilty of child abuse. You risk facing harsh penalties if you are charged because Michigan takes child abuse cases seriously. The penalties for child abuse in Michigan include life imprisonment, lengthy prison terms, or maintaining a criminal record with the Michigan Sex Offender Registry if it involves sexual violence. So, you require legal representation from a qualified criminal defense attorney if you are arrested for child abuse in Michigan. Even if you are the child’s parent, legal representation is absolutely necessary.
Attorney Nicole Blank Becker is a top criminal defense lawyer with years of experience with child abuse cases. Nicole has in-depth expertise in child abuse cases as the former Chief of the Child Abuse Unit and the Macomb County Sex Unit. Once you create an attorney-client relationship, Nicole can develop a solid defense strategy tailored to your case.
Definitions, Penalties, and Defenses to 1st Degree Child Abuse Charges in Michigan
A first degree child abuse charge is the most severe charge. A defendant may be charged with first degree child abuse if they intentionally or knowingly cause physical injury or mental suffering to a minor. A first degree child abuse charge occurs when a child suffers serious injuries that could only have been caused by intentional or knowing acts caused by the defendant. It is pertinent to state that the words intentional and knowing mean the same thing in this context.
1st degree child abuse is classified under specific intent crimes. Thus, the prosecution must prove that the defendant intended the severe injury. It is not enough that the defendant merely intended to commit an act. The defendant will only be guilty of a 1st degree child abuse charge if it is shown that they intended to inflict that particular injury on the child.
First degree child abuse is a felony punishable by life imprisonment or a prison sentence. The person convicted of child abuse in the first degree may also have their parental rights terminated. The termination of parental rights puts an end to the legal parent-child relationship.
The surest way to avoid being convicted of first degree child abuse charges is if you did not intend to commit that specific injury to the child, and the prosecution can not prove otherwise. However, you may not be exonerated of the offense and may be charged with a lesser degree.
Definitions, Penalties, and Defenses to 2nd Degree Child Abuse Charges in Michigan
A person may be charged with second degree child abuse if any of the following situations occur:
- The defendant’s omission results in severe mental or physical injury to a child
- The defendant’s recklessness results in severe physical or mental harm to a child
- The defendant intentionally or knowingly committed an act that is likely to result in serious mental or physical harm to a child, regardless of the actual occurrence of such injury
- The defendant intentionally or knowingly committed an act that resulted in severe physical or mental harm to a child, regardless of the actual occurrence of such injury
2nd degree child abuse is a crime of general intent. It is different from the first degree because the prosecution must show that the accused intended to commit an act, not just the specific action that caused a serious physical or mental injury to the child. If the prosecution cannot prove the occurrence of any of the incidents above, then a second degree child abuse charge is inappropriate.
Second degree child abuse is a felony punishable by a maximum imprisonment of 10 years for a first offense. If it is a second or subsequent crime, or the offender has a previous criminal history, it is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.
Where a parent acts in good faith and disciplines their child because they believe it is to the child’s benefit, it can serve as a defense. However, where it is proven that the punishment was unreasonably severe or cruel, the parent would have no defense.
Definitions, Penalties, and Defenses to 3rd Degree Child Abuse Charges in Michigan
A person may be charged with a third degree child abuse charge if they intentionally or knowingly cause physical injury to a minor. They may also be guilty of 3rd degree child abuse if they intentionally or knowingly do an act that poses an unreasonable risk of injury or harm to a minor and the action causes serious physical harm to a minor.
Third degree child abuse is usually considered a lesser offense than first degree child abuse. When a person is charged with the first degree, they may be convicted of third degree child abuse if the prosecution does not establish an excellent case. The difference between both degrees is the severity of the physical injury suffered.
3rd degree child abuse is a felony punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of two years. Where a parent acts in good faith and disciplines their child because they believe it is to the child’s benefit, it can serve as a defense.
Definitions, Penalties, and Defenses to 4th Degree Child Abuse Charges in Michigan
A person may be charged with a 4th degree child abuse charge if their recklessness or omission results in physical injury to a minor. They may also be guilty of 4th degree child abuse if they intentionally or knowingly do an act that poses an unreasonable risk of injury or harm to a minor, regardless of whether the action causes physical harm to a minor.
Fourth degree child abuse is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of one year. Where a parent acts in good faith and disciplines their child because they believe it is to the child’s benefit, it can serve as a defense.
Contact Blank Law, PC for Defense to Child Abuse Charges in Michigan
In many cases, the children are usually too young to speak for themselves. As a result, they are not required to give evidence, unlike in cases of sexual abuse. Since the court does not require the child to testify, the prosecution can and often uses circumstantial evidence to establish their case.
Therefore, even if you are innocent of the criminal charge(s) against you, the prosecution can connect different circumstances showing you are guilty. This is precisely why you need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to increase your chances of avoiding a child abuse conviction. Learn what to look for in a criminal defense lawyer here.
Blank Law, PC is a top criminal defense law firm in Michigan that fights for defendants facing child abuse charges. We can help you develop an aggressive defense to beat criminal charges. Contact us for a Michigan criminal defense attorney free consultation today.