What Does it Mean to be Charged With Child Abuse in Michigan? (Pt 1)

February 18, 2020 Abuse and Neglect Attorney

Child abuse charges can be pretty complicated in Michigan. Yes, we know, it doesn’t seem like a complicated subject, but there’s a lot you need to know in order to understand how our system works here in the Great Lakes State. So, because we find ourselves explaining this to a lot of our clients who are charged with child abuse, we figured we’d break it down for our readers. That way, if you’re ever up against a child abuse charge (and we sincerely hope you never are!) you’ll have a better idea of what’s going on, right from the start.

A man's clenched fist, with a blurry picture of a child sitting sadly on a bench with her head down, looking sad.

Almost all types of child harm are charged as “child abuse” in Michigan

The term “child abuse” covers a wide range of illegal activities when it comes to the treatment of children. Although we talk about child neglect, there actually isn’t a child neglect charge. If someone neglects a child, they will be charged with child abuse in Michigan. If someone hurts a child, they will be charged with child abuse. In fact, if the action, or lack of action, is in any way dangerous to a child, it’s likely to be charged as child abuse.

Sex crimes and drunk driving are the only exceptions to that rule

There are only two exceptions to that rule, and one is when a child is sexually assaulted. Sex crimes fall under a completely different set of laws, and so any sexual assault of a child, whether it’s molestation, child pornography, rape, or any other kind of sex crime where the victim is a minor, it will be handled specifically as a ‘sex crime’. The only other exception is OWI Child Endangerment, which is the charge used when an adult is driving a car under the influence of drugs or alcohol and a child is in the vehicle with them. 

Child abuse charges are divided into degrees of severity

All child abuse charges can be divided into four categories, depending on the circumstances and the severity of the crime. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • First Degree Child Abuse: This is when someone knowingly or intentionally does something to a child that causes them “serious harm”. This includes injuries like broken bones, burns, internal injuries or brain injuries. If a child dies as a result of abuse, that charge will be for murder.
  • Second Degree Child Abuse: This is when a parent or caregiver intentionally refuses to meet a child’s basic needs (like food and shelter), resulting in serious harm to the child. It can also mean putting the child at serious risk, or doing something “cruel” or “brutal” to a child.
  • Third Degree Child Abuse: This is when someone knowingly or intentionally does something that puts a child at risk, and that child is atually harmed in the process.
  • Fourth Degree Child Abuse: This is when a reckless act causes a child to be hurt, or when you intentionally do something that could hurt a child, even if they aren’t harmed at all.

Child abuse charges are extremely serious in Michigan!

Join us next time for a look at how these crimes are punished, the difference between CPS and the police, and how you should respond to child abuse charges in Michigan. Until then, if you or a loved one are accused of harming a child in any way, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245 immediately. Our skilled and hard-working child abuse defense attorneys are standing by to help you defend your future and protect your rights throughout this terrible ordeal.