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Child Abuse or Child Neglect Michigan

Being accused of child abuse or child neglect can have serious consequences. Child Protective Services (CPS) may investigate the situation and can ask the court to terminate parental rights. Unfortunately, many people face criminal child abuse charges in addition to a CPS investigation. In Michigan, there are four degrees of criminal child abuse. All four child abuse crimes carry substantial criminal penalties for those convicted. These charges often involve alleged intentional, knowing, willful, negligent, and reckless acts deal with maltreatment of children.

Child Abuse Crimes

First Degree Child Abuse

Second Degree Child Abuse

Third Degree Child Abuse

Fourth Degree Child Abuse

Parental Discipline

First Degree Child Abuse

First degree child abuse is the most serious Michigan child abuse crime. In order to prove this charge, the prosecutor must show that a parent or guardian who has care, custody, or authority over a child either knowingly or intentionally, cause "serious physical harm" or "serious mental harm" to the child.

Serious physical harm requires a physical injury to the child that seriously impairs the child's health or physical well-being. Serious physical harm requires a physical injury to the child that seriously impairs the child's health or physical well-being. This includes, but is not limited to: brain damage, skull or bone fracture, subdural hemorrhage, or hematoma, dislocation, sprain, internal injury, poisoning, burn, scald, or severe cut. Serious mental harm requires injury to a child's mental condition that results in visible signs of impairment to the child's judgment, behavior, ability to recognize reality, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life. The prosecutor must prove not only that the parent or guardian knowingly or intentionally injured the child, but also that the parent or guardian intended or knew that the result of his or her actions would cause serious harm to the child. Often times, when a child has an unexplained serious injury, the parent will be charged with abuse. As skilled defense attorneys, we realize that there are many ways for a child to receive an unexplained injury. People convicted of this crime will have a felony on their record and can face up to 15 years in prison.

Second Degree Child Abuse
Second degree child abuse charges in Michigan stem from allegations of:

  • willfully failing to provide food, clothing, or shelter necessary for the welfare of the child and the failing resulting in serious harm;
  • committing a reckless act that resulted in serious physical harm to the child;
  • knowing or intentionally committing an act likely to cause serious physical or mental harm to the child, even if the child was not actually harmed; or
  • knowing or intentional doing a cruel act to the child ("cruel" means brutal, inhumane, sadistic, or that which torments, even if the child is unharmed by the act).

Penalties for conviction of child abuse in the second degree are not as harsh as they are for first degree, but that are still quite serious. People convicted of child abuse in the second degree will have a felony on their record and could spend up to 4 years in prison.

Third Degree Child Abuse

Third degree child abuse comes about when the defendant knowingly or intentionally commits an act against a child that caused physical harm. Unlike first and some second degree child abuse allegations, there is not a requisite showing of serious harm to the child. The prosecutor must simply show that the child has been harmed in some way. Third degree child abuse is a felony and if convicted people can face up to 2 years in prison.

Fourth Degree Child Abuse
Fourth degree child abuse, while still a very serious charge, is the least severe of the child abuse crimes. Fourth degree child abuse requires either of the following:

  • the parent or guardian willfully failed to provide food, clothing, or shelter necessary to the child and that the child suffered physical harm as a result; or
  • the parent or guardian committed a reckless act that resulted in physical harm to the child.

Again unlike first degree and some of the second degree charges, serious harm is not required in order to show fourth degree child abuse. Child abuse in the fourth degree is the least serious child abuse crime. However, these charges, should still be taken seriously. People convicted of fourth degree child abuse will have a misdemeanor on their records and face up to 1 year in jail.

Parental Discipline

Contrary to popular belief, corporal punishment - or punish by force - is not illegal. However, this does not mean that a parent is entitled to use any amount of violence. The law permits a parent only to use force that can be considered reasonable. If you are charged with abuse for using excessive force on your child, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the force used was not reasonable as discipline.

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