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Fourth Degree Child Abuse Attorney in Michigan

What is the Michigan Fourth Degree Child Abuse law?

MCL 750.136b(7)

Fourth Degree Child Abuse is a misdemeanor charge, but should not be taken lightly. If you are convicted of Fourth Degree Child Abuse, the maximum Prison sentence for Fourth Degree Child Abuse is a misdemeanor punishable by not more than 1 year. Fourth Degree Child Abuse also means you'll be listed on the Michigan Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry and identified as "perpetrator" or "perp."

DO NOT SAY A WORD TO THE POLICE! Talk with a top-rated Detroit criminal defense attorney - immediately. Nothing can hurt your case more than your own words. Police will twist your words, misrepresent what you said, and "lose" audio and video evidence of your interrogation. Even when you repeatedly deny the Fourth Degree Child Abuse charges, your own words may still help get you convicted in some way.

If you are charged with Fourth 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 Fourth Degree Child Abuse case. Think of Child Protective Services as additional "police" on the case. While the Fourth 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.

Prain Law, PLLC, is a Criminal Defense firm that centers its focus specifically on defending those accused of crimes involving some element of assault, such as Fourth Degree Child Abuse.

What is Fourth Degree Child Abuse in Michigan? How is Fourth Degree Child Abuse defined?

The Michigan Fourth Degree Child Abuse law, MCL 750.136b(3), states:

"(7) A person is guilty of child abuse in the fourth degree if any of the following apply: (a) The person's omission or reckless act causes physical harm to a child.
(b) The person knowingly or intentionally commits an act that under the circumstances poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to a child, regardless of whether physical harm results.
(8) Child abuse in the fourth degree is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year.

Additionally, the Prosecutor has to prove that you are either: the parent of the child, or someone who 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." This is the same as other degrees of Child Abuse in Michigan.

Elements that Must be Proven to be Convicted of Fourth Degree Child Abuse in Michigan.

The Michigan Fourth Degree Child Abuse law, MCL 750.136b(7) is the most confusing of all of Michigan's Child Abuse laws. This is because reading the statute alone does not give the full picture of the law as it would be read to a Jury deciding your case if you went to Trial. To get the full picture, we must look at Fourth Degree Child Abuse Jury Instruction. Here are the theories of Fourth Degree Child Abuse:

  1. The Defendant either knowingly or intentionally caused harm to the child.
  2. The Defendant either knowingly or intentionally committed an act that under the circumstances posed an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to the child, regardless of whether physical harm results.
CLICK HERE for Brian J. Prain's related articles on Michigan Child Abuse Law...

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

A person accused of Fourth 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 Fourth Degree Child Abuse.

What is the Defense of Reasonable Response to an Act of Domestic Violence to Fourth 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 Fourth Degree Child Abuse 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 Fourth Degree Child Abuse.

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

Yes, those who are convicted of Child Abuse, Fourth Degree are eligible forHYTA.

The Michigan Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, MCL 762.11, allows a person between age 17 and 21 (such as a young babysitter) to avoid being "convicted" and having a permanent record. To discuss this option if you are between age 17 and 21, contact a Michigan Child Abuse Defense Attorney.

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

The Michigan Fourth Degree Child Abuse law makes it punishable by imprisonment for up to 1 year.

If convicted of Fourth Degree Child Abuse in Michigan under MCL 750.136b(3), you are likely to get Jail time. Your actual Sentence will be a result the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines. Don't get convicted in the first place.

As awful as this is, you must remain focused on aggressively defending yourself against these charges by hiring the right Michigan Child Abuse Defense Lawyer.

Contact Our Detroit Domestic Violence Lawyer Today

If you have been accused of Fourth Degree Child Abuse in under MCL 750.136b(7), there is no time to waste in enlisting the services of a legal team you can trust such as ours at Prain Law, PLLC.

To schedule an initial consultation with a member of our team, you may contact us by calling (248) 731-4543. Need answers but unable to speak on the phone? Use our Contact Form.

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