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Child Endangerment

The laws of the State of Michigan, including those listed in the penal code, are designed to protect the rights and well-being of all citizens, especially children who are unable to protect themselves. Any time someone acts in a way that puts a child at risk of harm or injury, they may face charges of child endangerment.

The Michigan Penal Code creates four classes of child endangerment charges that all carry their own qualifying elements and potential penalties. Child endangerment can range in severity from misdemeanor-level offenses to the most serious felonies available under Michigan law. As such, it could be important that you understand your rights and the potential consequences for a conviction.

A Michigan child endangerment lawyer could help people stand up for themselves in court. Skilled criminal attorneys could work to both refute the criminal charges at the core of your case and preserve your right to remain with your children.

The Classes of Child Endangerment in Michigan

The specific term "child endangerment" cannot be found in the Michigan Penal Code. Instead, the legislature labels these acts as instances of child abuse. The concept, however, remains the same.

Any time an individual takes an intentional action that results in harm to a child, they may be guilty of child abuse. In fact, an injury does not actually need to occur for such a charge to be levied—simply acting in a way that places a child at risk of harm is illegal.

A Michigan child endangerment lawyer could further clarify what the specific wording of this statute could mean for a potential client's case. They could also help determine which of the following degrees of child abuse a defendant may be charged with.

Fourth-Degree Child Abuse

The lowest level of child abuse is known as child abuse in the fourth-degree. According to Michigan Penal Code §750.136b(7), this statute applies whenever a defendant's omission or reckless act causes physical harm to a child. This can include failing to properly feed a child or not placing a child in a car seat prior to an accident. This could also refer to anyone who is operating a vehicle while intoxicated and has a minor in the car who is 16 years old or younger. This is called a child endangerment DUI.

Alternatively, this statute also applies if a defendant knowingly or intentionally commits an act that places a child at an unreasonable risk of harm, even if the child is not injured. Allowing a child to go mountain biking without a helmet could be a valid example of child abuse in the fourth-degree.

Third-Degree Child Abuse

Child abuse in the third-degree occurs when a defendant knowingly or intentionally causes any physical harm to a child. It also applies when a defendant puts a child at an unreasonable risk of harm, and harm does occur. To continue the previous example, if a child is injured after falling from a mountain bike they were riding without a helmet, third-degree child abuse charges may apply.

Second and First-Degree Child Abuse

Second-degree child abuse occurs when a person commits a reckless act that results in serious physical or mental harm. It also applies if a defendant acts in a way that intends to cause serious physical or mental harm, even if that harm does not occur.

Finally, the most serious version of child abuse is child abuse in the first-degree. Under the law, this occurs when a person intentionally or knowingly causes any serious physical or mental harm to a child.

Potential Consequences of Child Endangerment

Defendants facing allegations of child abuse should be most concerned with the potential criminal consequences. Each class of child abuse has its own maximum available penalty, and only child abuse in the fourth degree is a misdemeanor punishable by less than a year in jail. All other degrees are felonies, punishable by anything from one year of imprisonment to life in prison depending on the situation.

On top of the potential criminal consequences, people facing allegations of child endangerment may also face an investigation by Michigan's Child Protective Service. This investigation can result in a no-contact order with the child, a loss of visitation rights, or even with the child being placed into foster care, but a child endangerment lawyer in Michigan may be able to work on a client's behalf to prevent these outcomes from happening.

Contacting a Michigan Child Endangerment Attorney

Allegations of child endangerment, or child abuse as it is known in the Michigan Penal Code, can affect anyone. It does not matter if the defendant is a parent, a teacher, a babysitter, or a camp counselor—any person with guardianship or authority over a child can face these charges.

A guilty finding in a child endangerment case can have disastrous consequences for both your individual freedom and your relationship with your child. A Michigan child endangerment lawyer could work with you to defend your rights, so seeking help from one as soon as possible may be in your best interest. Call today to schedule a consultation.

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