For the first time ever, a Dale County mother could spend her next few years in prison for subjecting her baby to illegal drugs while still in the womb.
A Daleville woman admitted to police she smoked marijuana a couple of weeks before her baby was delivered.
Prosecutors say this is a growing problem and it’s something that must be stopped.
Daleville Police arrested 21-year-old Shelia Cox of Steven’s Trailer Park in Daleville.
At first, the charge was a misdemeanor for reckless endangerment, but now, thanks to a new Alabama law, it has been raised to chemical endangerment of a child, which is a felony charge.
“We’ve seen a rise in the number of children born in this circuit with cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine in their system. Our doctors, social workers and nurses are very concerned about that and have reported it to our offices. We just cannot sit idly by and allow children to suffer this as they are born in this world,” says Kirke Adams, District Attorney.
“Any child born with an illegal chemical substance should be a felony offense. The child doesn’t have any say-so or could walk away. With the mother’s few minutes of pleasure, the baby will be harmed the rest of its life,” says Sgt. Harvey Mathis, Daleville Police Investigator.
In order for this case to go under the chemical endangering charge, the reckless endangerment had to be dropped.
However, the district attorney and police say that’s worth it, even if the case ends in an appeal court.
“We have full confidence that this particular crime fits the statute. If we are fortunate enough to gain a conviction in this case, we feel confident that the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court will uphold it,” says Adams.
Cox admitted to police she smoked one and a half joints two weeks prior to her delivery.
If she’s convicted for chemical endangerment, she could face up to 10 years in prison.
News 4 spoke with the Dale County Medical Center Tuesday. It is not standard procedure to perform drug tests on babies, unless the mother has drugs in her system or has a history of drug use.
What happened in this case is under investigation and hasn’t been released.
Cox was appointed an attorney Tuesday. No preliminary hearing has yet been set.