Articles Posted in Child Neglect or Abuse

In Michigan, First Degree Child Abuse is a very serious offense.  According to Michigan Compiled Law 750.136b(2) it carries a possible penalty of life in prison or any term of years.  There are 3 elements that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial for a conviction to occur:  (1) the Defendant, (2) knowingly or intentionally, (3) causes serious physical or mental harm to a child.  See People v Gould, 225 Mich App 79 (1997) and Michigan Compiled Law 750.136b(2).

The above referenced elements have specific legal definitions.  The phrase “knowingly or intentionally” requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant intended to cause serious physical or mental harm to a child through the Defendant’s act, or that a Defendant knew that serious mental or physical harm would be caused by the Defendant’s act.   “[I]t must be shown that the Defendant intended to harm the child, not merely that the Defendant engaged in conduct that caused harm.” People v. Gould, 225 Mich App 79 (1997).

The terms “serious physical harm” and “serious mental harm” also have specific meanings that are defined by Michigan law.  According to Michigan Compiled Law 750.136b(1)(f) 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.   Michigan Compiled Law 750.136b(1)(g) defines serious  mental harm as an injury to the child’s mental condition or welfare that is not necessarily permanent.  The mental harm results in visibly demonstrable manifestations of a substantial disorder of thought or mood which significantly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or the ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life.  In Child Abuse First Degree trials the prosecution often tries to prove this element through the testimony of an expert witness (psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.).

Allegations in Michigan involving child neglect and child abuse cases can involve the prosecutor’s office or the attorney general’s office depending upon the jurisdiction.  The allegations can be handled criminally, in family court, outside of court by child protective services, or a combination of any of these options.

Criminal Cases of Neglect or Abuse
In Michigan an individual can be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony charge of child abuse depending upon the circumstances.  The individual charged with such allegation(s) can retain a criminal defense attorney to contest the charge(s), or request a court appointed attorney if he or she is indigent.