Child Abuse Charges in Michigan: Penalties for Failing to Act

Gavel depicting child abuse charges in Michigan

Did you know that the state of Michigan takes child abuse charges very seriously?

Like most states in our union, if you are charged with some form of child abuse, it can be challenging to defend.

No matter what your side of the story is, prosecutors take the safety of minors very seriously. In addition, they will very likely try to get the harshest sentence possible for your case.

However, did you know that you don’t have to be the actual abuser to be charged with child abuse?

If you know that something abusive has occurred or is occurring, you could be charged with failure to act under Michigan State Law.

For 40-year-old Dhiannah Fawcett, of Oakley, this nightmare scenario has turned into a reality. However, it seems as though prosecutors have offered her a plea deal that is much more lenient than the penalties she would have gotten if she had been convicted of 2nd-degree child abuse.

Child Abuse Charges in Michigan

Dhiannah Fawcett has plead guilty to one count of fourth-degree child abuse. She did this in exchange for a dismissal of one count of second-degree child abuse. She was set to go to trial the day she plead guilty, so we can’t know if she would have been acquitted or had to serve her full 10-year sentence.

The charges against Mrs. Fawcett came as a result of a police investigation into her husband. 58-year-old Brian Fawcett had multiple charges of criminal sexual conduct against two teenage girls who had lived with the Fawcetts for years.

Mr. Fawcett’s charges include some severe allegations, according to this news story:

“six counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a relation, two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. First-degree criminal sexual conduct involves penetration and is punishable by up to life imprisonment, while second-degree criminal sexual conduct is limited to touching and is a 15-year felony.”

One girl testified that when Mr. Fawcett had sexually abused her at age 12. She had told Mrs. Fawcett and Dhiannah Fawcett had done nothing about it.

Second-Degree and Fourth-Degree Child Abuse

According to Michigan State legislature:

“A person is guilty of child abuse in the second degree if any of the following apply:

The person’s omission causes serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a child or if the person’s reckless act causes serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a child.”

If what this teenage girl testified is true, and the state can meet its burden of proof, Mrs. Fawcett could be found guilty of second-degree child abuse. The penalty carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Instead, the state offered Mrs. Fawcett a plea of fourth-degree child abuse, which is defined as follows:

‘A person is guilty of child abuse in the fourth degree if any of the following apply:

The person’s omission or reckless act causes physical harm to a child.

The person knowingly or intentionally commits an act that under the circumstances poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to a child, regardless of whether physical harm results.”

Fourth-degree child abuse is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in prison. Mrs. Fawcett’s sentencing hearing is set for December 20th.


In conclusion, child abuse charges are taken seriously in Michigan. Failure to protect a child by acting in his or her best interest can and will be charged as a crime in the state of Michigan.

If you or a loved one is facing child abuse charges, you need to hire an expert defense attorney immediately. Call my office today so we can start fighting for you.

Let’s start fighting for your freedom.

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