Recognizing the fragility of children, the Government has enacted law and created agencies meant to look after children when their parents are unable or unwilling to do so. While this may have been a good idea at the outset, often times these law and agencies go too far.
Every day, parents in Michigan are separated from their children by courts, CPS and police. Sometimes these entities overreact because they are dealing with children, a vulnerable and innocent population, which makes it very difficult to get anyone to pay attention to your version of events.
Perhaps you took your child to the emergency room because they were injured while playing outdoors. You are concerned and upset because your child is in pain. Suddenly, you realize that the doctors and nurses seem less interested in treating your child and more interested in interrogating you. They are challenging your version of the events. Soon the police and child protective services (CPS) meet you at the hospital for an interview. If this or something similar sounds familiar, you should know that you are not alone.
Like many other crimes in Michigan, child abuse is separated by degree1 First degree child abuse, punishable by imprisonment for life or any term of years, occurs when a parent or guardian or other person caring for the child knowingly or intentionally causes serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a child.2 The actor must intend both the act that causes the serious harm as well as the harm itself. First degree child abuse cases—especially those in which infants are the alleged victim—tend to be very focused on the medical providers’ assessment of injuries and the mechanism of those injuries. In such cases, it is imperative that your attorney consults with medical experts to provide a second opinion and critique the Government expert’s findings. These experts can reveal insights about the challenges that you face or provide alternate causes of injury or cast certain injuries in a different light.
The lesser child abuse offenses, second through fourth degree, involve different combinations of actor culpability and injury. For example, second degree child abuse encompasses acts where a person’s omission causes serious physical harm to a child while fourth degree child abuse could be an omission or reckless act that causes “mere” physical harm.
Mas/Stig-Nielsen has represented clients charged with every degree of child abuse, all with very different circumstances. As parents ourselves we understand the fear, uncertainty and anxiety that comes with the threat of being separated from your child/children. We have worked with medical experts, abuse and neglect civil attorneys and other family law attorneys to help put our clients in the best possible position in their current criminal case and in their lives moving forward. Because there are so many moving parts in these types of cases you need the best representation in each area you’re dealing with. On the legal end you can depend on us.
1 MCL 750.136b sets forth the elements and maximum punishments for child abuse in the first, second, third and fourth degree.
2 Serious physical harm and serious mental harm are defined by statute. MCL 750.136b(f)-(g).