Welcome back, and thanks for joining us here at The Kronzek Firm as we unpack the difficult subject of child abuse, and discuss the laws and penalties associated with it. In the previous article we explained the three main categories that child abuse is broken into, namely physical, sexual and emotional or psychological abuse. Don’t confuse these with child neglect. That’s a slightly different subject. Moving forward, we are going to take a look at how child abuse is criminally prosecuted in Michigan.
- First Degree Child Abuse
This is described as knowingly or intentionally inflicting “serious physical or mental harm” on a child. Physical harm in this category requires an injury that could be described as serious, including broken bones, burns, brain injuries, or internal injuries. Serious mental harm denotes harming a child’s mental ability to cope with the demands of life, or impairing the child’s judgment or behavior. Under Michigan law, first degree child abuse is a felony punishable by up to life in prison, or any number of years. We commonly see these cases in our office as “shaken baby” cases or “non accidental injury” cases.
- Second Degree Child Abuse
This refers to a parent or guardian’s willful failure to provide the food, clothing, or shelter. These are things a child needs for their basic welfare, which when missing, then results in serious physical harm to the child. It could also refer to knowingly or intentionally committing an act that is likely to cause serious physical or mental harm to the child, even if the child is not actually harmed. And finally, it can also mean doing something that is considered to be “cruel” to a child, which means anything brutal, inhumane, sadistic, or tormenting. Penalties for child abuse in the second degree include up to ten years in prison for first offenses, and up to twenty years in prison for all second and subsequent convictions.
- Third Degree Child Abuse
This is when a person knowingly or intentionally does something that causes physical harm to a child. In this case, the prosecutor is required to prove that the child was actually harmed, not just placed at risk of harm. Child abuse in the third degree is a felony under Michigan law, and is punishable by imprisonment for up to two years.
- Fourth Degree Child Abuse
This charge refers to when someone’s reckless act or omission causes a child to be physically harmed, or if someone knowingly or intentionally does something that, under the circumstances, puts a child at risk of being harmed, even if nothing actually happens to that child. Fourth Degree Child Abuse is a misdemeanor under Michigan law. It is punishable by up to one year in jail.
This charge refers to to an action or behavior that places a child in imminent danger of bodily injury, mental or physical impairment, or death. It is often charged in conjunction with a DUI, when a person is caught driving under the influence of alcohol with a minor in the vehicle. This is usually referred to as OWI Child Endangerment.
Under Michigan law, first offense OWI Child Endangerment is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and fines up to $1,000. Second offenses are felonies, and are punishable by fines of up to $5,000. However, when it comes to the sentence, the law allows a judge considerable leeway in determining incarceration time.
Also keep in mind that in addition to these serious criminal charges and penalties, placement on Michigan’s Central Registry is probable. If the acts are done by a parent or guardian, CPS is likely to file a separate petition in the family court.
Join us again next time, when we will be discussing the different charges a person could face here in Michigan if accused of sexually abusing a child, and ways that CPS comes into play here. Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of harming a child, or any other criminal activity in Michigan, call The Kronzek Firm immediately at 866 766 5245. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys have spent decades defending the people of Michigan against over-zealous prosecutors. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you protect your future.