In People v Tennyson, the MSC held that the possession of drugs and firearms, by itself, was not legally sufficient to support the defendant's conviction under MCL 750.145 for doing an act that "tended to cause a minor child to become neglected or delinquent so as to tend to come under the jurisdiction of the family division of the circuit court."
In Tennyson, the prosecutor presented evidence that: the defendant's home was raided by police; the defendant had drugs under his bed; the defendant kept loaded firearms in his dresser drawer; and, that the defendant's stepson was present in the home at the time of the raid in another room. Citing the lack of evidence regarding whether the child knew of the drugs or guns in the house or whether there was a causal relationship between the defendant's criminality and any child neglect or delinquency, the majority concluded that the statute was not satisfied.
Interpreting the Legislature's intent, the majority analyzed the phrase "tend to" as used in the statute. In doing so, the majority reasoned that the phrase was not intended to be used as a directional phrase, whereby the statute could be satisfied if the defendant's acts led the child toward delinquency or neglect. Instead, it concluded that the Legislature intended the phrase to mean that the defendant's acts have caused it to be more likely than not that a minor child would "become neglected or delinquent" and that the defendant's conduct caused it to be more likely than not that a minor child would come under family court jurisdiction (as defined by MCL 712A.2(b)(1) and (2).
The Court's opinion is interesting, yet there is some dispute as to whether the holding will make its way into child protective proceedings. For now, it provides the defense bar with some clarity on proper application of this particular statutory provision.