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3rd Degree Child Abuse: Everything You Need to Know

Blank Law, PC Team

3rd Degree Child Abuse: Everything You Need to Know

Victims of child abuse are often defenseless. That means child abuse offenses are taken very seriously by law enforcement authorities and can have drastic consequences on the offender, if convicted.

In most cases, a child abuse conviction will result in probation, imprisonment, and being listed on the Michigan Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry.

The odds are almost always against the defendant in a child abuse charge. In other words, jurors and all parties involved, have a presumption of guilt against person “X” who sits in the defendant’s seat in a child abuse case. That’s why it’s essential to hire a defense attorney for your child abuse case as early as possible.

hire a defense attorney for your child abuse case

If you are under investigation or being charged with a child abuse offense, make hiring a skilled, hardworking defense attorney a priority. While the prosecution may believe their case is seemingly solid, engaging a criminal defense attorney with years of experience dealing with child abuse laws can significantly increase your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.


Child abuse is defiend under Michigan law as harm or threatened harm of a child’s health or physical well-being. Child abuse has to be a physical or mental injury, maltreatment, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, or any degree of criminal sexual conduct (csc degrees) that has been knowingly or intentionally perpetrated on a child.

It is common in child abuse cases that the perpetrators are the child’s parent, guardian, member of the clergy, teacher, a teacher’s aide, or any other person or entity responsible for the child’s welfare.

Michigan law classifies child abuse into four seperate degrees:

  • MCL 750.136b(2) – Child abuse 1st degree
  • MCL 750.136b(3) – Child abuse 2nd degree
  • MCL 750.136b(5) – Child abuse 3rd degree
  • MCL 750.136b(7) – Child abuse 4th degree

The above classifications are based on the severity of the offense and its circumstances. Of all child abuse offense charges you could face in Michigan, a 1st degree child abuse charge is the most serious, in terms of the severity of the harm caused to a child and the penalties it carries. A fourth degree child abuse charge is the least serious of the four, with its penalties also being the least severe.

With that said, no matter what degree a child abuse conviction is for, a child abuse offense can have everlasting ramifications, including being registerd on the Michigan Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry.

3rd Degree Child Abuse

In this guide, the focus will be on 3rd degree child abuse, its definition, penalties, defenses, comparison to other degrees of child abuse, along with everything else you need to know about child abuse offenses in Michigan.


According to MCL 750.136b(5), a person is guilty of child abuse in the third degree if one of the following circumstances exist:

  • They knowingly or intentionally inflict physical harm to a child
  • They knowingly or intentionally engage in conduct that poses an unreasonable risk of injury or harm to a child, and if the conduct results in actual physical harm to the child

Additional Definitions:

  • Per MCL 750.136b(1)(a), child means a person aged 17 or younger and isn’t emancipated by law
  • Per MCL 750.136b(1)(e), physical harm means any form of injury to a child’s physical condition
  • Per MCL 750.136b(1)(d), person means a parent, guardian, or any other person responsible for caring for or has responsibility or authority over the child, irrespective of the time the child is under the care, custody, or authority of the person


In order for the prosecution to prevail on a third degree child abuse charge, one of the elements from the section above must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Thrid degree child abuse is commonly charged due to its ease of proving compared to first degree child abuse and 2nd degree child abuse charges.


While third degree child abuse offenses are the second least severe form of child abuse, after fourth degree child abuse, the consequences of a conviction can last a lifetime. One such life-long legal ramification is a permanent record as a child abuser and a lifelong damaged reputation in society.

The best strategy to avoid a conviction for child abuse third degree is hiring the best sex offender lawyers in Michigan to be by your side immediately. Not just any criminal defense attorney, but an attorney who has had many years of experience handling these exact types of offenses. Hiring a criminal defense attorney for your case significantly increases the chances of your charges getting reduced, or even dropped completely.

Upon a third degree child abuse conviction, the offender will be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison, for a first-time offender. For second and consecutive convictions, the offender will be guilty of a felony punishable by prison time not exceeding five years.


If the prosecution decides to seek enhanced charges based on the accused’s record as a child abuser, they must bring the fact to the court’s attention.

The process starts with the prosecuting attorney adding a defendant’s prior conviction statement on the complaint and information. The court then decides on the existence of prior convictions in a separate hearing, without the jury. The prosecution can rely on court documents from the defendant’s prior convictions to prove their case, which includes, but are not limited to:

  • A copy of the conviction or judgment of past offenses
  • Sentencing, prior trial, and pre-trial transcripts
  • A copy of the pre-sentence report
  • The defendant’s testimony

Prior conviction refers to past convictions on any four child abuse classes or a violation of a similar offense in another jurisdiction.



A charge of first degree child abuse is the severest among all child abuse offenses and carries the harshest penalties. Under MCL 750.136b(2), a person shall be guilty of first degree child abuse if he knowingly or intentionally inflicts serious mental harm or serious physical harm to a child.

Applicable Definitions:

  • As used under MCL 750.136b(1)(f), serious physical harm means a physical injury to a child, which significantly causes an impairment to the child’s health or well-being. Some injuries classified as such under this section include:
    • Hematoma or subdural hemorrhage
    • Skull or bone fracture
    • Brain damage
    • Sprain or dislocation
    • Burns and scalds
    • Internal injury
    • Severe cut
    • Poisoning
  • Serious mental harm, as defined under MCL 750.136b(1)(g), is an injury inflicted on a child’s mental condition or welfare. The law does not require that the effects of the injury be permanent. The only requirement is that it causes a noticeable disorder in the child’s thoughts and mood, significantly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to perceive reality, or coping with everyday life demands.

Upon conviction for a first degree child abuse charge, the defendant will be guilty of a felony punishable with a prison term of any length of time, including life in prison.

If you face a first degree child abuse charge, it is important to remember that things can get extremely complicated. The good news is that engaging a skilled criminal defense attorney, specifically one with experience in child abuse charges, will help you fight your charges.


Second degree child abuse comes second in severity and penalties. According to MCL 750.136b(3), a person shall be guilty of second degree child abuse if:

  • The person’s omission results in serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a minor
  • A person’s reckless conduct results in serious physical or mental harm to a minor
  • They knowingly or intentionally engage in an act that could potentially result in serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a minor, whether physical harm results from the act or not
  • They knowingly or intentionally commit an act that may be considered cruel to a child, whether harm results from their conduct or not
  • The perpetrator is a licensee

Applicable Definitions:

  • A licensee is defined under MCL 111 as any entity or person permitted or licensed to run a children welfare or child care organization
  • Per MCL 750.136b(3), omission refers to intentional failure to provide a child with basic human needs – food, shelter, and clothing – or intentional child abandonment

Upon conviction of a second degree child abuse charge, the offender will be guilty of a felony punishable by a prison term of not more than 10 years for a first-time offender. If the offender has a past conviction, a second, third, or subsequent conviction will result in a felony punishable by a prison term not exceeding 20 years.

Child abuse in the second degree differs from child abuse in the third degree in the severity of the harm caused. In first degree child abuse and second degree child abuse, the resulting harm has to be serious physical or mental harm.


Fourth degree child abuse is the least severe of all child abuse offenses. According to MCL 750.136b(7), a person shall be guilty of child abuse in the fourth degree if:

  • The person’s reckless acts or omission results in a child’s physical harm
  • The person knowingly or intentionally engages in conduct that poses an unreasonable risk of injury or harm to a child, whether harm results from their conduct or not

Upon a conviction of a child abuse fourth degree offense, the offender will be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by not more than one year for first-time offenders. For second and consecutive offenses, the offender will be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by not more than two years.

Fourth degree child abuse varies from child abuse in the third degree in that there is no requirement for harm to have occurred.

Like child abuse in the third degree, the prosecution can seek enhanced penalties for individuals with a past conviction or convictions. The process of seeking sentencing enhancements follows the same process as stipulated under MCL 750.136b(11).

It is also important to note that prosecution or conviction of any abuse of a child offense does not mean that a person cannot be charged with other applicable charges, depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, if the abuse offense includes child sexual abuse, the offender will not only face child abuse charges, but criminal sexual conduct charges may run alongside the abuse charges.


Anyone in Michigan can report a case of child abuse by calling (855) 444-3911, but what is a mandatory reporter?

Some professions are mandated by law to report suspected child abuse cases, with failure to report resulting in possible legal penalties upon conviction. Examples of professions that are mandated to report suspected child abuse offenses include physicians, dentists, nurses, licensed emergency Medicare providers, licensed professional counselors, social workers, and the clergy.

Under Michigan law, mandatory reporters can report suspected child abuse cases to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) through several channels, including telephone, online, or written reports. Upon receiving a report, the DHHS can opt to take any of the following steps:

  • Assign the case for investigation
  • Reject the report based on the information provided
  • Transfer the case to law enforcement or any other agency mandated to handle child abuse cases

For a case to be considered for investigation, it must fulfill the following requirements:

  • The person facing the abuse is below 18 years of age
  • The alleged perpetrator of the offense is a parent, legal guardian, or any other individual or entity that has the responsibility of caring for the child
  • The allegations in the report meet the definition of child abuse, as specified by law



Under MCL 750.136b(10), Michigan law absolves a defendant of any wrongdoing in a child abuse case if the conduct that resulted in harm to a child occurred in response to a case of domestic violence. If such circumstances are present in your case, your attorney can rely on this affirmative defense to build your best case. With an inteligent criminal defense lawyer, particularly one with years of experience in child abuse cases, your child abuse case can potentially be dismissed at a pre-trial.


The person claiming or filing a child abuse report could mistake injuries on a child that resulted from something other than caused by child abuse. Under such circumstances, your attorney can use “injuries are not a result of child abuse” as a defense argument.


False allegations of child abuse and criminal sexual conduct involving a child are very common, especially among ex-partners. If your child abuse charge arises from such circumstances, your defense could use “false allegations” due to CPS involvement as a defense strategy against child abuse charges.


Even when you are confident that your charges have been fabricated, it is always best to have a skilled criminal defense attorney on your side. Children can sometimes be coached to say and to share false information in court, but a skilled defense attorney will successfully unearth the truth.

Always remember, if you are being criminally investigated for a seriuos misdemeanor and/or felony, such as child abuse or criminal sexual conduct, rule number one is DO NOT talk to the police, as anything you say to the police can be self-incriminating.

Even if you know you are innocent, you should not speak to the police. Law enforcement officers are trained on how to ask suspects questions and they may twist your words to point to your guilt. Officers are permitted to lie to you in an attempt at uncovering the truth.

You have a right to have a lawyer, so use that right to ensure that you are properly protected. Let Nicole Becker Blank handle your child abuse case today!

Michigan Sex Crime Attorney Nicole Blank Becker

If you are under investigation for child abuse in Michigan, or anywhere in the USA, the lawyer to hire is Nicole Blank Becker of Blank Law, PC, and here is why:

Nicole worked for years as the Chief of Child Abuse Unit and Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit. She was previously a prosecutor who worked in both Wayne County and Macomb County, Michigan.

Nicole has over 20 years of experience working in the criminal law arena, including child abuse laws. This means that she can look at your case from all perspectives: the defense, prosecution, and as a child abuse professional.

Dont let a child abuse or a criminal sexual conduct case ruin your life. Contact Blank Law, PC, at (248) 5156583 or reach us online to book a free consultation or case evaluation.

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