Shaken Baby Syndrome Defense
Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), also known as Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) is a blanket term for a variety of symptoms associated with an infant or baby being violently shaken or an impact to the head. Incidences of alleged SBS are usually prosecuted under California Penal Code Section 273d, which addresses the physical abuse of a child.
In a dependency action, it may be charged under Welfare and Institutions Code Sections 300, subdivision (a),(b), and (e).
How is Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) diagnosed?
Several symptoms point to possible SBS, but the three main indicators are (1) subdural hemorrhaging, (2) retinal hemorrhaging, and (3) swelling of the brain. Subdural hemorrhaging is bleeding in the area between the brain and the skull. Retinal hemorrhaging is bleeding behind the eyes. In cases where these three symptoms are accompanied by bruises, marks, broken bones, or other signs of injury, an SBS diagnosis is difficult to question.
A problem arises in the many cases of alleged SBS where the three symptoms are present but there are no other external marks or bruises on the child to indicate abuse or violent shaking. According to the New York Times, there are an estimated 200 SBS prosecutions each year, and in 50-75% of these cases the only evidence of SBS are these three symptoms.
Questioning a Shaken Baby Syndrome Diagnosis
In the late 1990s, the medical profession was in agreement that the presence of the three symptoms and no other bruise or broken bones pointed to the child being a victim of abuse and SBS. In most cases, the person with the child in the hours before the child’s collapse was considered to have abused the child in some way. Specialists have begun to question this conclusion in the past decade, however.
Many specialists agree that while shaking can cause the three symptoms, it can only cause these three symptoms if there is an accompanying injury to the neck or spinal cord. If there is no accompanying injury to the neck or spinal cord, a number of other causes unrelated to SBS may be involved.
Specialists have advanced a variety of explanations for the three symptoms that do not indicate SBS. Trauma at birth can cause chronic subdural hemorrhaging that can occur spontaneously or with little trauma months after birth. This chronic bleeding can cause the subdural hemorrhaging often associated with SBS.
Other explanations include infections, bleeding, and clotting disorders. Still other cases may involve infant stroke caused by a thrombosis (a blood clot within a blood vessel) brought about by an infection like meningitis.
Even if there is some kind of head trauma or injury involved, sometimes an infant does not visibly respond to the injury immediately. A baby may be fussy, lethargic, stop eating, or sleeping well for hours and even days before finally collapsing. Many specialists argue that it is sometimes impossible to pinpoint the exact time of injury in many alleged SBS cases because patients sometimes experience extended levels of lucidity after the injury. Since it is difficult to pinpoint the exact time of the alleged shaking, it is also very difficult to determine who abused the child.
Orange County SBS Defense at the Law Office of Lauren K. Johnson
Our criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Lauren K. Johnson will provide you with experienced legal defense for child abuse, SBS and neglect charges. If facing possible charges it is important to get in touch with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. We can be reached by phone at 949-679-7745 or you can send us a message online today.