SHE’S THE LAW: Pregnant Women Found Doing Drugs Can Now Be Charged With Assault

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pregnant-black-womanA new law in Tennessee has caused Mallory Loyola, 26, to be arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault after both she and her newborn infant tested positive for meth. She is the first person in that state to be prosecuted for the offense, which went into effect earlier this month.

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According to the newly enacted law, a woman may be prosecuted for assault for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant if her infant is harmed or addicted to the drug, yet allows anyone charged to use entering a treatment program before birth and successfully completing it afterwards as a defense. Though the law has been fully enacted within the state, it faced severe opposition from both state and national critics, who believe that the law will ultimately hinder drug-addicted pregnant women from seeking help or treatment for their addictions.

According to reports, Loyola admitted to smoking meth just days prior to giving birth and was subsequently release on $2,000 bail after being arrested and charged.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

Misdemeanor assault, also known as a simple assault, is an act of violence against another person, which can also include any physical contact made without consent. Additionally, a threat of bodily harm made with an apparent ability to cause the harm is considered assault. The threat must cause a reasonable fear of injury, otherwise there is no assault. The victim of the assault is also considered. An adult making a threat against a child can be considered an assault because the child will incur a fear of injury, although the exact same threat made against another adult might not.

Depending on the jurisdiction, misdemeanor assault or simple assault generally carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and/or a fine up to $1000. First offenses usually just involve a fine, probation and a mandatory diversion program, such as drug treatment or an anger management course.

Tennessee Governor, Bill Haslam, released a statement after signing the bill saying that the intent of the law is to “give law enforcement and district attorneys a tool to address illicit drug use among pregnant women through treatment programs.”

HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOU?

If you are pregnant and addicted to illegal narcotics, the best thing to do is seek professional assistance by way of a treatment program or facility, not only for the health of the baby, but also to avoid jail time and/or a fine.

Currently, no other states in the U.S. explicitly give prosecutors authority to charge mothers for using drugs while pregnant, however, 17 states consider it a child welfare offense. It is also imperative to keep in mind that according to a recent report by RH Reality Check, mothers in states that have recently legalized the recreational use of marijuana can also face child-endangerment charges, even if there is no harm to the child.

Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.

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