In Michigan, Criminal Child Abuse charges are always serious and, in some instances, convictions carry a maximum penalty of life in prison. Anyone accused of this crime needs the assistance of the best child abuse defense attorney they can find. At Cronkright Law, our attorneys have been defending parents and other caretakers for many years. Every case is unique and therefore your case is like no other. You need an attorney who can help you examine the facts and assess the legal theories of the prosecution, no matter how complex they may be. To start your free initial assessment, contact us at (517) 881-4643. We have attorneys on call 24/7.
Michigan Child Abuse Law
The Michigan Child Abuse law (MCL 750.136b) criminalizes various types of activity that cause or potentially will harm a child either physically or mentally. Penalties vary with the seriousness of the harm and are enhanced for repeated convictions. The basic maximum penalties are as follows:
|Child Abuse 1st degree||Life or any term of years|
|Child Abuse 2nd degree||10 years (first offense) or 20 years (second offense)|
|Child Abuse 3rd degree||2 years|
|Child Abuse 4th degree||1 year|
Child abuse 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree sentences are subject to Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. However, since the Michigan Supreme Court decided People v Lockridge, the Guidelines are not binding on the sentencing judge.
What is 1st degree Child Abuse under Michigan Law?
Child Abuse in the first degree in Michigan is knowingly or intentionally causing serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a child as those terms are defined in the statute.
Important Details for Child Abuse 1st degree:
- If the prosecution is alleging serious physical harm, there must be an injury which impairs the child’s health or physical well being. It does not need to be a permanent injury. There some injuries which by law meet this standard. These include a brain injury, a skull fracture, any bone fracture, subdural hemorrhage, burns and internal injuries.
- If the prosecution is alleging severe mental harm, there must be an injury to the child’s mental condition. This also does not need to be permanent but does require a “visibly demonstrable manifestation of a substantial disorder.”
- The “knowing or intentional” standard excludes the possibility that a purely accidental injury would qualify as first degree child abuse.
What is 2nd degree Child Abuse under Michigan Law?
Child Abuse in the second degree in Michigan is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and can involve several distinct types of acts, omissions and circumstances which harm or potentially harm a child. Here are the potential scenarios:
- An omission causes serious physical harm to a child
- An omission causes serious mental harm to a child
- A reckless act causes serious physical harm to a child
- A reckless act causes serious mental harm to a child
- A person knowingly or intentionally does something likely to cause serious harm to the child
- A person knowingly or intentionally does something that is cruel to the child even if the child is not harmed
- A licensed care giver violates the child care licensing law resulting in the death of a child.
Important details for Child Abuse 2nd Degree:
- This crime criminalizes both acts and omissions. An omission is the failure to act where there is a legal duty to do so.
- This crime criminalizes certain reckless acts. Some Michigan Courts have interpreted “Reckless” to mean “Negligent”. This is a very low standard for criminal law. Historically, reckless has meant a deliberate indifference to the known consequences of an act.
- Cruel is defined in the statute as “brutal, inhuman, sadistic, or that which torments.” This definition leaves room for interpretation. Under this theory of prosecution, the prosecutor does not have to prove any harm to the child.
What is 3rd degree Child Abuse under Michigan Law?
Child Abuse in the third degree in Michigan is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. The crime is committed when a person knowingly or intentionally causes physical harm to a child, or when a person knowingly or intentionally does something that poses an unreasonable risk of harm, and the child is actually physically harmed by it.
Important details for Child Abuse 3rd Degree
- Child Abuse 3rd degree requires physical harm to the child, but does not require serious physical harm.
- There is no mental harm component to this charge.
- Although many attorneys would call this a high court misdemeanor because of the two year maximum penalty, it is a felony.
What is 4th degree Child Abuse under Michigan Law?
Child Abuse in the fourth degree in Michigan is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail. This crime is committed when a person’s act or omission causes physical harm to a child, or when the person knowingly or intentionally does something that poses an unreasonable risk of harm.
Important Details for Child Abuse 4th Degree:
- A person can be prosecuted under this law for both acts and omissions where there is physical harm.
- There is no requirement that the physical harm be “serious.”
- There is no mental harm aspect of this charge
- An act which poses an unreasonable risk of harm can be prosecuted even if no harm occurs. (This is often the charge that is made when children are left in a car unattended.)
If you are charged with any child abuse offense in Michigan, contact the expert Michigan criminal defense attorneys at Cronkright Law for a free initial consultation.