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First Degree Child Abuse in Michigan

What is the Michigan First Degree Child Abuse law?

MCL 750.136b(2)

First Degree Child Abuse charges are among the most serious criminal charges a person can face. A person convicted of First Degree Child Abuse in Michigan, you may very likely go to State Prison. The maximum time is “LIFE or any term of years.” A conviction for First Degree Child Abuse also means being placed on the Michigan Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry as a "perpetrator."

DO NOT TALK TO THE POLICE! Speak only with a Michigan Child Abuse Defense Attorney - and do it right away. Nothing can hurt your case more than your own words. Even if you are denying the First Degree Child Abuse charges, Police will twist your words and find some way to use what you said to convict you.

If you are charged with First Degree Child Abuse, you either already have or will be met with an intense investigation by Child Protective Service (CPS), a branch of the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS). While it can hurt you not to speak with CPS, any statements you make could be used against you in the Child Abuse, First Degree case. Think of Child Protective Services as additional "police" on the case. While the First Degree Child Abuse charges take place in Criminal Court, you will likely also face a Child Protective Proceeding (also called Abuse/Neglect case) in Civil Court, where the government is seeking either to get "jurisdiction" over you or even to terminate your parental rights completely and place your children in a foster home.

Stop these charges dead in their tracks with the right Michigan Child Abuse Lawyer!

Prain Law, PLLC, headed by Detroit domestic violence attorney Brian J. Prain, is a firm that specifically concentrates on cases involving an element of assault, including First Degree Child Abuse.

What is First Degree Child Abuse in Michigan? How is Child Abuse, First Degree defined?

The Michigan First Degree Child Abuse law, MCL 750.136b(2), states:

"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. Child abuse in the first degree is a felony punishable by imprisonment for life."

Additionally, the Prosecution must prove that you are either the parent of the child or someone who had had "care or custody of or authority over the child when the abuse allegedly happened, regardless of the length of time the child was cared for by, in the custody of, or subject to the authority of that person."

A "child" is defined as someone under the age of 18.

CLICK HERE for Brian J. Prain's related articles on Michigan Child Abuse Law...

Definition of "Serious Physical Harm" in Michigan First Degree Child Abuse law

In Michigan, "Serious Physical Harm" means "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."

Definition of "Serious Mental Harm" in Michigan First Degree Child Abuse law

In Michigan, "Serious Mental Harm" means "an injury to a child’s mental condition that results in visible signs of an impairment in the child’s judgment, behavior, ability to recognize reality, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life."

What is the Defense of Parental Discipline to First Degree Child Abuse Charges?

A person accused of First Degree Child Abuse in Michigan may raise the defense of "Parental Discipline" under MCL 750.136b(9), which states:

"(9) This section does not prohibit a parent or guardian, or other person permitted by law or authorized by the parent or guardian, from taking steps to reasonably discipline a child, including the use of reasonable force."

But this does not mean that any amount of force may be used. The law allows only force that is reasonable. What force is "reasonable" is up to a Jury to decide on a case-by-case basis. However, as long as there is some evidence of Parental Discipline as a defense, the accused is not required to prove that their actions were reasonable as discipline. The Prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the force used was not reasonable as discipline. If they cannot, the accused is entitled to a verdict of NOT GUILTY of First Degree Child Abuse.

What is the Defense of Reasonable Response to an Act of Domestic Violence to First Degree Child Abuse Charges?

There is yet another defense that can be raised to these charges (in addition to Self-Defense, which is a complete defense to all crimes).

A person accused of Child Abuse, First Degree in Michigan may also raise the defense of "Reasonable Response to Act of Domestic Violence" under MCL 750.136b(10), which states:

"(10) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under this section that the defendant's conduct involving the child was a reasonable response to an act of domestic violence in light of all the facts and circumstances known to the defendant at that time. The defendant has the burden of establishing the affirmative defense by a preponderance of the evidence. As used in this subsection, "domestic violence" means that term as defined in section 1 of 1978 PA 389, MCL 400.1501."

However, unlike the defense of "Parental Discipline," the burden is on the defendant to prove this defense by a preponderance of the evidence. This means the evidence must persuade the Jury that it is more likely than not that the conduct was a reasonable response to an act of domestic violence, given all of the facts and circumstances known to the accused at the time. If the accused proves this by a preponderance of the evidence, they are entitled to a verdict of NOT GUILTY of First Degree Child Abuse.

Does the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act ("HYTA") apply to First Degree Child Abuse?

No, those who are convicted of Child Abuse, First Degree are not eligible forHYTA.

The Michigan Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, MCL 762.11, normally allows a person accused of a crime between age 17 and 21 (such as a young babysitter) at the time of the offense to plead guilty without being "convicted" and having a record. But because the maximum penalty for First Degree Child Abuse is LIFE, Child Abuse, First Degree charges are not HYTA eligible. These charges must be aggressively defended by a Michigan Child Abuse Defense Attorney.

What is the Sentence for First Degree Child Abuse? Will I go to Jail or Prison for First Degree Child Abuse in Michigan?

The Michigan First Degree Child Abuse law makes it punishable by "imprisonment for LIFE or any term of years." This crime used to be a 15-year maximum felony in Michigan, but in 2012, the penalty was increased to LIFE in Prison.

If convicted of First Degree Child Abuse in Michigan under MCL 750.136b(2), you are very likely going to Jail or State Prison. Your actual Sentence range will be calculated according to the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines, which take account of your history and the facts of the current case.

Contact Our Detroit Domestic Violence Attorney

At Prain Law, PLLC, we understand this situation can be incredibly stressful and intimidating for a defendant to face. This is why it is important you face your charge in the best possible position, which includes having our Detroit domestic violence lawyer on your side.

Allow us to advocate on your behalf. Contact us by calling (248) 731-4543 today.

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