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Can Someone be Falsely Accused of Shaking a Baby?

No loving parent ever dreams that he or she will be the subject of a “shaken baby” investigation or prosecution. Popular belief mistakenly tells us that child abuse allegations are never leveled against good parents.

Unfortunately, sometimes these false accusations do happen to good people who would never harm their children. This is especially true in so-called “shaken baby” cases, where accusations can be based solely on a “triad” of symptoms, as some doctors call it, without any substantiating evidence to bolster the child abuse claim.

Facing these kinds of allegations as a parent can be terrifying, provoking, and isolating. But if you’re up against false child abuse accusations based only on your child’s medical symptoms, you are not alone. Getting all the information you can, as well as hiring experienced legal representation, can help you fight these unwarranted charges.

What is “shaken baby syndrome”?

So-called “shaken baby syndrome” (SBS) is a diagnosis medical professionals use to describe certain kinds of brain injuries in infants. SBS is typically diagnosed based on the presence of a triad of symptoms in a young patient in the absence of a recent car accident or other serious accidental trauma that would explain the injuries. These triad symptoms are:

  • bleeding in the retinas of the eyes
  • subdural hematoma (bleeding under the dura, one of the several layers of tissue covering the brain)
  • brain swelling

Once universally accepted science by medical professionals, SBS in recent years has come under increasing scrutiny from both medical and legal viewpoints. Some pediatric specialists are beginning to acknowledge that the triad of symptoms can arise in children for reasons other than non-accidental trauma. As a result, defense attorneys are having more success convincing fact-finders that the triad symptoms alone are not enough to convict someone of child abuse.

How can medical symptoms alone be the basis of child abuse accusations against a parent or caregiver?

While a gradual shift in perspective is happening in the medical and legal communities around SBS, there is still a strong belief among many physicians and prosecutors that these cases can be accurately diagnosed, investigated, and tried to conviction based on triad symptoms alone.

Parents and caregivers most vulnerable to these charges are those who spend long periods of time alone with their children. New parents, adjusting to the challenges of raising a demanding infant, may also be targets of SBS investigations. Parents and caregivers under money stress or other pressures may be singled out in these cases as more likely to take these worries out on their kids, even without evidence of prior abuse.

How can parents and caregivers defend against false charges in these cases?

Medical experts are vital witnesses in these cases. If you are facing false SBS charges, you must hire an experienced defense attorney who will find the physicians and related experts willing and able to testify on your behalf. This is difficult work for a defense attorney because physicians willing to testify for someone accused of shaking a baby are often pilloried by the medical establishment.

At The Marshall Defense Firm we have worked with many physicians who provide powerful evidence in defense of accused caregivers, and we are always alert to find new physicians to take the place of those who burn out.

Expert testimony can be needed from pediatricians, ophthalmologists, pathologists, radiologists, nurses, and biomechanics experts. Your attorney needs to match the array of defense experts to the evidence in your case.

If you have no previous record of child abuse, that can help the jury doubt that you committed the charged offense. But there is no assurance that your unblemished record will be admitted in evidence at trial. Here, too, a good attorney can make the difference.

If you are facing accusations of child abuse based on SBS, it is vital to secure experienced, skilled, and compassionate legal representation. The Marshall Defense Firm has many years of experience in these sensitive cases, vigorously defending loving parents and other adults unfairly accused of harming kids in their care. If you are in this position, please contact us at 206.826.1400 or We want to help.

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