Pregnant drug abusers could face felony charges

CARTER COUNTY, Okla. (KXII) -- District Attorney Craig Ladd says his office is working on prosecuting mothers who deliver babies that test positive for drugs.

Ladd says that even though a fetus is not recognized as a child under Oklahoma Law, newborns found with drugs in their system can lead to the mother being charged with child neglect.

"If that baby has been exposed to drugs while in utero, it is our position that the mother has been neglectful to her child," Ladd said.

Department of Human Services Casey White says DHS is receiving more reports of babies being tested positive for drugs from medical personnel.

White says when they are notified about a case, DHS investigates to recommend to the D.A. whether the baby should be removed from the mother's care.

"Safety of the children is our most important thing," White said, "(It) is ensuring that the kids are safe."

A report from DHS shows that during the 2016 fiscal year, 517 newborns born in Oklahoma were tested positive for drugs.

48 percent tested positive for Marijuana

19 percent tested positive for Methamphetamine

14.1 percent tested positive for Pills

2.8 percent tested positive for Alcohol

16.% tested positive for other drugs.

"Because we are reliant upon medical professionals making these reports to us, it's harder to say (are) the incidents increasing or is the awareness increasing that is causing a medical professional to make that report us," White said.

Ladd says so far 10 mothers have been charged with child neglect.

He says he wants this aggressive approach to help protect the ones who cannot defend themselves.

"This is our opportunity to hopefully keep them safer and hopefully discourage mothers from using drugs when they are pregnant," Ladd said.



 
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