Abusive Head Trauma & Child Abuse: Charges, Penalties, and Defense

Gavel depicting Abusive Head Trauma & Child Abuse: Charges, Penalties, and Defense

The term Abusive Head Trauma is not a legal term, but a medical term. It used to be called “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” Even though this isn’t a legal term, it is a term used in the broader medical and scientific community. The term has come to form the basis for thousands of criminal charges leveled against parents and caregivers.

Abusive Head Trauma or Shaken Baby Syndrome: The Sole Basis for Child Abuse Charges

The truth is, if your child or a child under your care comes to the ER with one of three symptoms, you could be facing child abuse charges.

The medical community has identified a triad of symptoms that can only be caused by SBS (Shaken Baby Syndrome):

  • Retinal hemorrhages (bleeding behind the eyes),
  • Brain bleeding (called hematomas) and
  • Brain swelling

If your child is diagnosed with SBS, prosecutors can bring charges of child abuse against you even if there are no other outward signs of abuse like bruising or broken bones.

When child abuse charges are leveled against you in the state of Michigan, Children’s Protective Services usually becomes involved. You could face having your children removed from your care. In addition, you could be facing up to life in prison for a first-degree felony child abuse charge.

Parents and caregivers who have been charged with crimes related to this syndrome have had to live with the devastating effects on their lives and their families lives. Some of them are still in prison. However, did all of them actually commit this crime? Did any of them?

Why Is There Any Doubt About Shaken Baby Syndrome?

The medical and child protective community has changed the terminology for this charge. However, the underlying assumptions about these types of allegations haven’t changed.

You may find yourself at the hospital, desperate for doctors to help your child, only to be charged with intentionally hurting your child.

The good news is that there is a growing body of medical professionals and scientists who deny the existence of SBS for scientific reasons. The award-winning documentary The Syndrome highlights the scientific case to be made against an SBS diagnosis.

It is impossible to test the theory that you can produce brain injury in a baby without also producing neck injuries. In one study, a researcher did produce brain injuries in monkeys using whiplash-like force. However, he couldn’t do so without also producing neck injuries.

MRI imaging has shown that brain injuries can happen as a result of accidental falls. The AAP denies to be true. Additionally, symptoms of brain injuries can worsen over time.

Underlying factors like illnesses and severe vitamin deficiencies can cause these symptoms when there has been no fall or trauma to the brain.

The other piece of good news is that many of these doctors have made it their mission to serve as expert witnesses at trials related to SBS or AHT charges. In recent years, more and more courts have ruled against these charges, finding defendants not guilty of child abuse.

As a result of these experts, families have reunited, and parents have gotten their lives back.


If you are facing child abuse charges related to brain injury in your child, it’s essential that you treat it seriously. Get the best legal representation possible to combat the charges and keep your family together.

Call my office today.

Let’s get started