Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Is it child-abuse to smoke marijuana in a car containing a child?

Local newspapers (http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_18121348) (http://www.coloradodaily.com/ci_18121348#axzz1NJ4bqYu1) report the arrest by Boulder police of a young woman police say smoked pot in her car while an infant was in the back seat, presumably based on the cop's claim that she smelled pot in the car.  The woman also is now charged with possession, driving while under the influence of drugs and no having insurance.  She is innocent until proven otherwise.

It's not unusual for police and prosecutors to tack on a child-abuse charge in cases where they arrest a driver they say might be drunk while there are children in the car.  From that point of view it is no surprise police would do the same with someone supposedly high from smoking pot.  Main problems include (1) "child abuse" is a very vaguely defined crime ,and (2)  the decision to charge is highly discretionary (as are so many "crimes" these days), resting almost exclusively on the cop's word.

Look at the main Colorado statute, CRS 18-6-401.  It says a person commits child abuse "if such person causes an injury to a child's life or health, or permits a child to be unreasonably placed in" a threatening situation, "or "engages in a continued pattern of conduct that results" in "mistreatment."

Does this woman supposedly smoking marijuana in a car containing a child meet the definition or intent of that crime?  What about smoking a cigarette?  Listening to loud music?  If driving while using a cell phone increases the risk of an accident, is that child abuse too?  Where is the line drawn and who draws it?

Unfortunately, in our justice system where an increasing number of so-called social problems are dumped for lack of a better alternative, it could take a year or more and alot of money for this woman to find out.  Most likely we'll never know since most defendants will take even a bad "deal" to avoid the pain and uncertainty of defending against criminal charges, a sad fact upon which the system survives.

1 comment:

  1. You know what you are talking about From a less than a layman's point of view And having said that, this woman may or may not have been smoking medical marijuana with her child in breathing distance,as far as I know, that has to be a written directive from the MD and she should not drive while under this therapy and carry the directive with her at all times. No, this is not child abuse.