Fourth Degree Child Abuse in Michigan


Fourth Degree Child Abuse is a Misdemeanor Charge - But Not Like Other Misdemeanor Charges in MI

A Fourth Degree Child Abuse charge in Michigan is a criminal charge that is assaultive in nature, and not to be confused with a Child Protective Services (CPS) case, also called an "Abuse/Neglect" case, where the State can intervene in someone's parenting rights, or possibly even terminate them.

However, a CPS case does often accompany a Fourth Degree Child Abuse charge! So, what are the Fourth Degree Child Abuse laws, and how do you know if you've committed this crime under MCL 750.136(b)?

What the Prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt: To convict you of Fourth Degree Child Abuse, the Prosecution must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt (failure to prove any one of the following beyond a reasonable doubt, even if all the others are proven, means that you cannot be convicted).

That you are the parent or *guardian of the child (under 18 and not emancipated). *Guardian is defined broadly enough to include almost anyone watching over a child.

2. That you had either custody or authority over the child at the time.

3. And at least one of the following:

  • That you knowingly or intentionally committed an act that, under the circumstances, posed an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to the child. Note: to be convicted of Fourth Degree Child Abuse in Michigan the child does not need to be injured - you only need to have created the risk in a way that is unreasonable; OR...
  • That your omission or reckless act caused physical harm to the child; OR...
  • That you willfully failed to provide food, clothing, or shelter necessary for the welfare of the child, or abandoned the child, and as a result of doing any of these things, the child suffered physical harm.

Perhaps the most important thing mentioned here, is the fact that a Fourth Degree Child Abuse conviction can be determined with no actual physical harm or injury to the child being necessary!

There are also 3 other degrees of Michigan Child Abuse charges:

3RD Degree Child Abuse: A parent or guardian who intentionally or knowingly inflicts some physical harm to a child, may be charged with third-degree child abuse.

2ND Degree Child Abuse: When a parent or guardian behaves in a reckless or cruel manner, neglects a child's basic needs, or fails to provide a child with adequate care and does so willfully, he or she may be charged with second-degree child abuse.

1ST Degree Child Abuse: Evidence of broken bones, internal injuries, or brain damage, inflicted intentionally by a parent, may lead to charges of first-degree child abuse.

Here are some Defenses that could keep you from a conviction:

1. Parental Discipline: There is nothing wrong with disciplining a child. A parent or other person in charge of the child may use force to discipline a child. However, any force used must be reasonable, and in order to convict you, the Prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the force used was not reasonable.

2. Reasonable Response to an act of Domestic Violence: To raise this defense, you must persuade a jury, that it is more likely than not, that your conduct was a reasonable response to an act of Domestic Violence, given all the facts and circumstances known to you at the time. Note: the definition of Domestic Violence for purposes of this defense is broader than the definition of Domestic Violence contained in the Penal Code.

If you are are facing a Fourth Degree Child Abuse charge in Michigan, you should contact an experienced Criminal Attorney, right away. Rather than aimlessly searching the web, call Prain Law, PLLC, to get real answers tailored to the specific facts of your case. We take our time to speak with you, in a completely free and confidential consultation. Call (248) 731-4543


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Prain Law, PLLC is focused only on the types charges featured on our website. This helps us deliver the decisive, effective advocacy for which our clients know us. We only serve individuals currently under investigation or who have a current case pending in court. Our firm does not represent injury victims, defendants who have already taken a plea or have been sentenced, or those seeking to expunge a criminal record. We do not respond to anyone who is not involved in a pending investigation or who has a court case for a type of charge we do not handle, but we wish you the very best of luck.