Advocating for children’s rights
As parents, we are often challenged with disciplining our children. Sometimes things go too far and parents are accused of crossing the line. While child abuse is a serious crime it is also extremely devastating to be prosecuted for what you believed to be, and is, reasonable discipline.
If accused of child abuse, when a parent is claiming that they were disciplining their child, the facts of what happened will not be disputed. Instead the parent will have to be honest and admit to everything they did, and explain what it was that made them angry in the first place. The parent will have to show that there was some sort of justification for what they did.
Michigan treats child abuse very seriously with penalties up to life in prison for some offenses. Everyone should agree that children need to be protected from abuse and neglect. However, with a trail of parents being falsely accused and convicted on weak evidence and pseudo-science masquerading as proper therapeutic techniques and children’s testimony, those accused of child abuse need aggressive legal representation and a thorough and proper investigation of any accusations.
Degrees and Punishments for Child Abuse
First Degree Child Abuse
If someone knowingly or intentionally causes serious physical or serious mental harm to a child, that person faces any number of years in prison up to life.
Second Degree Child Abuse
If any of the following apply:
- A person’s omission causes serious physical or serious mental harm or if a person’s reckless act causes serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a child
- A person knowingly or intentionally commits an act likely to cause serious physical or serious mental harm to a child regardless of whether any harm results
- A person knowingly or intentionally commits an act that is cruel to a child regardless of whether such harm results.
For a first offense of 2nd degree child abuse—a person faces up to 10 years in prison
For a second offense of 2nd degree child abuse—a person faces up to 20 years in prison
Third Degree Child Abuse
If any of the following apply:
- A person knowingly or intentionally causes harm to a child
- A person knowingly or intentionally causes harm or injury to a child and the act results in physical harm to a child or an act under the circumstances poses an unreasonable risk of injury to a child
If convicted a person faces up to two years in prison.
Fourth Degree Child Abuse
If any of the following apply
- A person’s omission or reckless act causes a physical harm to a child
- A person knowingly or intentionally poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to a child regardless of whether such harm results
If convicted a person faces up to one year in jail.
Is Disciplining Your Child Abuse?
No! Under the law, a parent, guardian, or any other person that is permitted by law, may reasonably discipline a child including the use of reasonable force. However, CPS and school personnel may differ on what “reasonable force” and “discipline” mean or should mean. That is what often leads to CPS and police investigations.
A defendant may offer an affirmative defense that any harm that resulted was a reasonable response to act of domestic violence in light of all the facts and circumstances known to the defendant at the time. An affirmative defense is a rare instance under the law where a defendant has the burden of proof. Normally, the prosecutor has the sole burden of proof and the defendant is not legally required to prove or disprove anything, or do anything at all for that matter. However, under the law, a defendant has the burden to prove an affirmative defense by the preponderance of the evidence.
What Should I do if I am Being Investigated for Child Abuse?
If you have been questioned by CPS, police, or other governmental agencies, do not speak to them about the allegations without having a lawyer present or before consulting with an attorney. Any little thing you say, even though it seems benign at the time, can and will be used against you in subsequent proceedings.
Michigan Child Abuse Defense Attorney
Overzealous CPS investigators can mistake common bruises and scratches for abuse when in fact they have a very legitimate cause. Society’s desire to protect vulnerable children from harm can cause knee-jerk reactions that lead to parents being falsely accused and even having their parental rights or custody taken away. If you have been accused of child abuse, contact Bazzi Legal today to speak to a Michigan child abuse defense lawyer for a free, no obligation consultation!