Detroit Child Abuse Lawyer
If you get convicted of committing child abuse, the repercussions could be severe. In addition to jail time, a permanent entry on your criminal record, and damage to your reputation, a conviction for child abuse may result in you losing custody of your child.
In many cases, the allegations of abuse arise from the observations of a pediatrician or a teacher, who are under a legal duty to report suspected cases of abuse to Child Protective Services (CPS).
Thus, you may find yourself defending against child abuse charges and a CPS petition to terminate your parental rights. In such a situation, an experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer can help you maintain custody of your child and defend your reputation in the face of false allegations and overzealous prosecution.
Child Abuse in the First Degree
As in the rest of the United States and most of the world, a child is any person under the age of 18. Michigan Penal Code section 750.136b(2) defines child abuse in the first degree as knowingly or intentionally causing:
- Serious Physical Harm — Any physical injury that seriously impairs a child’s health or well-being, such as a bone or skull fracture, brain damage, internal bleeding, deep cut, burn, sprain, or dislocation.
- Serious Mental Harm — Any injury to a child’s mental condition resulting in a substantial disorder of his or her thoughts or mood that significantly impairs his or her ability to cope with ordinary life, recognize reality, or demonstrate normal judgment or behavior—whether permanent or not.
The penalty for committing the felony of child abuse in the first degree may be imprisonment for any number of years up to life.
Child Abuse in the Second Degree
According to Michigan Penal Code 750.136b(3), a person is guilty of child abuse in the second degree if he or she:
- Causes serious physical or mental harm to a child through omission, such as leaving a child in a dangerous situation or failing to provide proper care, shelter, food, or clothing
- Causes serious physical or mental harm to a child through an act of recklessness, such as knowingly involving a child in an activity that could result in harm
- Knowingly or intentionally does something that would likely result in serious physical or mental harm to the child—regardless of whether harm actually occurs
- Knowingly or intentionally commits an act of cruelty to a child, whether harm results or not
The penalty for a first offense child abuse in the second degree may be imprisonment of up to 10 years, and 20 years for a second offense.
Child Abuse in the Third Degree
As defined in Michigan Penal Code section 750.136b(5), child abuse in the third degree consists in:
- Knowingly or intentionally causing physical harm of any kind to a child
- Knowingly or intentionally doing something which, under the circumstances, poses an unreasonable risk of harm to the child, and the child gets injured
Child abuse in the third degree is a felony, and a conviction could result in a prison sentence of up to 2 years.
Child Abuse in the Fourth Degree
Michigan Penal Code section 750.136b describes child abuse in the fourth degree as:
- Causing any physical harm to a child through omission or recklessness
- Knowingly or intentionally doing something which, under the circumstances, puts the child at an unreasonable risk of experiencing harm or injury—regardless of whether the child gets harmed or not
Child abuse in the fourth degree is a misdemeanor involving a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail.
Defending Against your Child Abuse Charges With a Skilled Detroit Child Abuse Lawyer
Just like with any other criminal charges, the prosecution bears the burden of proving every element of child abuse beyond a reasonable doubt. If you’re being charged with child abuse in the third degree, for example, the prosecutor will need to build a case demonstrating that it is practically certain that:
- The victim was under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged abuse
- You acted knowingly or intentionally (the requirement of mens rea, or guilty mind)
- The child was either harmed or put into a situation in which he or she was at an unreasonable risk of being harmed
If your lawyer can show that there is a reasonable doubt concerning the truth of even one of the above elements, the jury must acquit you—at least in the ideal world where juries always follow the judge’s instructions. Unfortunately for child abuse suspects, prosecutors sometimes rile up the passions of jury members to such an extent that they may be tempted to return a guilty verdict despite the weakness of the prosecution’s case. A skilled Detroit violent crimes attorney can connect with the jury and ensure that they get your side of the story and understand their duty to follow the judge’s instructions.
Affirmative Defenses Against Child Abuse Charges
Your defense lawyer can also attempt to argue an affirmative defense in response to your child abuse charges. Parents have the right to discipline their children, which includes using a reasonable amount of force under the circumstances. The reasonable disciplining of a child almost never results in serious mental or physical harm, so this defense may only be used for third or fourth degree child abuse charges.
Another available defense is to claim that the use of force against the child was a reasonable response to an act of domestic violence. Your lawyer must prove that your use of force against the child was reasonable in light of all the facts and circumstances of the case. Many adolescents are physically imposing and prone to violent outbursts. If you harmed an adolescent child who was being physically abusive to you or another family member, you may be able to avoid a conviction for child abuse.
Attorney Maurice Davis puts the knowledge and experience he gained working as a prosecutor towards defending the rights of the accused. With a proven track record of successfully guiding his clients through the criminal justice system and obtaining positive case results, he’s well equipped to defend against your child abuse charges.
If you want to talk with a Michigan criminal defense lawyer, you can call the Davis Law Group today for a free and confidential consultation of your case at (313) 818-3238.