In Michigan, child abuse is classified into four different degrees, in accordance with MCL 750.136b. First degree child abuse is the most serious of the four different degrees.
Michigan law states that, "a person is guilty of child abuse in the first-degree if the person knowingly or intentionally causes serious physical or serious mental harm to a child." MCL 750.136b(2). First degree child abuse is a serious felony, punishable by imprisonment for life or any term of years.
Serious physical harm is defined in the statute as, "any physical injury to a child that seriously impairs the child’s health or physical well-being, including, but not limited to, brain damage, a skull or bone fracture, subdural hemorrhage or hematoma, dislocation, sprain, internal injury, poisoning, burn or scald, or severe cut." MCL 750.136b(1)(f). Serious mental harm is also defined in the statute as, "an injury to a child’s mental condition or welfare that is not necessarily permanent but results in visibly demonstrable manifestations of a substantial disorder of thought or mood which significantly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life." MCL 750.136b(1)(g)
First degree child abuse is a specific intent crime in Michigan. People v Maynor, 470 Mich 289; 683 NW2d 565 (2004). This means that the prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual intended to seriously harm the child or knew that serious physical harm would be caused. Id. at 297.
Allegations of child abuse should be taken very seriously, particularly, any allegations of first degree child abuse. Additionally, most allegations of child abuse will trigger an investigation by Child Protective Services (CPS), and possibly a petition to terminate parental rights.
If you are facing first degree child abuse charges, it is important to hire an attorney experienced in handling serious child abuse allegations. Often times, serious child abuse allegations require carefully reviewing complicated medical records, thorough investigation, and the use of experts. It is critical to hire a lawyer with expertise in criminal cases and the CPS aspect of the case. The Law Offices of Shannon M. Smith, P.C. is a law firm experienced in handling child abuse allegations. We can handle both the criminal side of your case and the juvenile side of your case if a petition to terminate parental rights is filed. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.