Practice Areas

Child Abuse Defense

Child abuse accusations can lead to long, painful, and emotionally-charged cases. But often these accusations stem from misunderstandings, exaggerations, or accidents.

As a parent herself, Shannon Smith understands the emotional toll cases like these can take on your family. And that’s why our she is here to help you through it, with a dedicated and compassionate defense strategy.

Child abuse in Michigan

In Michigan, child abuse is defined as any type of physical or mental harm to a child as a result of:

  • Reckless actions
  • Failing to act in a way to protect the child
  • Negligence (ex. failing to provide adequate food, water, shelter, medical care)
  • Physical abuse
  • Verbal, psychological, or emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
While parents do, of course, have the right to discipline their child(ren), they must do so within the confines of the law. For this reason, corporal punishment, such as spanking, can easily lead to a child abuse charge

Other examples of child abuse could be any of the following

  • Leaving a child unattended at home or in a car
  • Driving with a child while under the influence or alcohol or other drugs
  • Exposing a child to controlled substances or illegal drugs
  • Committing an act of domestic violence in the presence or a child

In Michigan, the law requires that anyone who comes into contact with the child (teacher, doctor, religious leader, club instructor) and suspects abuse must report it to the proper authorities. Known as mandatory reporters, these accusers can face criminal charges themselves if they fail to report their suspicions.

Classifying Child Abuse in Michigan

First-degree charges are the most serious. You are charged with child abuse in the first degree if the state of Michigan believes you have “knowingly and intentionally caused serious physical or serious mental harm to a child.” This is considered a felony and is punishable by up to life in prison.

Child abuse in the second degree includes one of three elements:

• Child neglect or reckless behavior that results in serious physical or mental harm;

• Knowingly or intentionally committing an act that’s likely to to cause serious physical or mental harm, regardless of whether harm actually results; or

• Knowingly or intentionally committing an act that’s cruel, regardless of whether harm actually results.

Second-degree charges are felonies punishable by up to ten years in prison for the first offense

What to do if you're accused of child abuse

Child abuse allegations often stem from misinterpreted or misrepresented medical evidence. Sometimes, a mandatory reporter misunderstands a situation and reports without giving the parents an opportunity to explain. And sometimes an injury is simply the result of an accident, as opposed to physical abuse.

There are several things that can happen if you or your spouse has been accused of child abuse

  • Almost certaintly, Child Protective Services (CPS) will open an investigation, typically in cooperation with law enforcement.
  • At some point, there may be a petition filed to terminate your parental rights or criminal charges may be filed.
  • As a result of a CPS investigation, your name might be added to Michigan’s Central Registry of Abuse and Neglect.

As parents ourselves, the team at Shannon Smith Law is ready to fight for you.

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