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How To Respond To Shaken Baby Charges

The term “shaken baby” refers to a child who suffers a brain injury because his or her parent or caregiver violently shook him or her, which often occurs as an attempt to make the child stop crying.

If you have been accused of shaking your child, you need to start working with a lawyer as soon as possible to develop an effective defense strategy for your case. In a contentious divorce, a parent might accuse the other parent of child abuse in an attempt to have the court assign him or her sole custody of the child. Though this can follow a shaken baby accusation, it is not the only legal issue you can face in this position. Being accused of shaking or otherwise harming a child could lead to a criminal investigation, which can result in a conviction of child abuse for you. To fight a criminal charge, work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

What Is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Shaken baby syndrome is the type of brain injury that babies and toddlers who are violently shaken suffer. A child who suffers from shaken baby syndrome can suffer permanent brain damage or death.

Symptoms of shaken baby syndrome include:

  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irritability
  • Retinal hemorrhage
  • Bleeding
  • Poor eating
  • Bruises
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty maintaining consciousness

Fewer than 200,000 cases of shaken baby syndrome are reported in the United States each year. Victims are primarily between birth and two years of age, though some victims are between three and five years old.

When a child is admitted to the hospital after being shaken, he or she must be monitored in the intensive care unit. In some cases, the child needs breathing support or surgery to stop the bleeding in his or her brain that resulted from the trauma.

Harming One’s Child Is Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a crime. In Wisconsin, law enforcement is required to arrest an individual who they have reasonable grounds to believe that individual physically harmed another in his or her household and the abuse is likely to occur. After a domestic violence arrest, the alleged abuser cannot be released from jail without posting bail or seeing a judge.

Child abuse, which includes shaking a baby or young child, is a form of domestic violence. In Neenah, all cases of alleged child abuse are handled by the Winnebago County Department of Human Services. Certain individuals are required to report any suspicions of child abuse they have to the Department, including physicians, first responders, law enforcement, child care providers and social workers.

How To Handle False Accusations

If your former partner accuses you of harming your child, be proactive to defend your case against the accusation. A medical diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome can support such a charge, but it does not explicitly show who harmed the child. Although you will likely be angry and want to protect your child from further harm, it is important that you focus on defending your case and cooperating with the legal system to demonstrate your fitness as a parent. This can involve testimonies from other adults who can discuss your parenting and relationship with your child, documentation from your child’s pediatrician showing when and how he or she was injured, and any photographs, videos or transcripts you have to support your innocence. When you are questioned by law enforcement, remain calm. Do not make any statements to law enforcement without your lawyer present.

Not all head injuries in young children are due to being shaken. If you know your child was injured in an accident, such as falling off a bicycle, use the evidence you have of the accident to demonstrate that your child is not being abused. There is some debate in the medical field over whether only shaking a child can cause the types of traumatic injury often attributed to shaken baby syndrome when the child has suffered no other injuries.

We Can Answer Your Questions

If you have been accused of shaking a young child, work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to develop an effective strategy for fighting the charge. Our Wisconsin criminal defense and DUI lawyers at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC, are here to help you. Contact our team online or call 920-202-8872.