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New law aids prosecutors in newborn cases

Published 6:04am Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling will give prosecutors more teeth when it comes to cases against mothers who ingest drugs and other illegal substances while pregnant, local officials said.
On Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court announced their ruling upholding the convictions of two mothers who were charged with chemical endangerment of a child after ingesting controlled substances while pregnant.
Officials said the ruling stated “the plain meaning of the word ‘child’ in the chemical endangerment statute includes unborn children,” a statement which affirmed that the mothers could be held responsible for passing the illegal substances they ingested onto their unborn children.
According to Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing, not having this specific fact clarified has made similar cases more difficult to prosecute in the past so he said he was glad to hear about the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“We probably average four to six cases like this a year in Franklin County and we even had one that came up several months ago,” Rushing said.
“We’ve based several arrests recently on the Court of Criminal Appeals ruling that these cases would be upheld and that unborn children were recognized as ‘children’ under the statute, so this ruling just further affirms that persons who chose to use drugs and pass those drugs on to their children, whether born or unborn, will be prosecuted.”
One of the cases that was the basis for the Supreme Court’s ruling came out of nearby Colbert County in 2008 when Amanda Helaine Borden Kimbrough was charged with chemical endangerment of a child when her infant son, born premature, died 19 minutes after birth from what an autopsy described as “acute methamphetamine intoxication.”
Records show Kimbrough pleaded guilty to chemical endangerment of a child during her trial and was later sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“Cases like the one in Colbert County and the ones that we encounter here happen far too often,” Rushing said.
“I believe this ruling will be a strong deterrent for women who pregnant and are considering partaking in an illegal substance.”
Rushing said he believes the reason the ruling will be successful is because it focuses on the heart of the problem.
“One mother told us that she was just too selfish to stop doing drugs while she was pregnant, which is what the real issue is here – the mothers are focusing on their wants and needs and don’t care about the child they are carrying.
“That is what makes this ruling so important, in my opinion. If the mothers are too selfish to worry about the health and safety of their unborn child, they’ll now have to worry about being prosecuted and put in prison. The consequences will directly affect them, and that’s something they can understand.”

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