A New Tennessee Law Criminalizes Mothers who Abuse Drugs During Pregnancy

A Tennessee law that went into effect on July 1, 2014, would allow a woman to be charged with assault for the harm her drug use has inflicted on her child. State officials thought that this was the best course of action to stem the tide of infants born dependent on drugs. On July 8th, Mallory Loyola, a 26-year-old new mom was the first to be arrested under Tennessee’s new law. According to the NY daily news, Loyola allegedly confessed to the police that she had smoked meth just days before giving birth to a child who tested positive for methamphetamine. According to WATE-TV the bond was set at $2000 for Ms. Loyola.

This new law “provides that a woman may be prosecuted for assault for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant, if her child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug; law expires July 1, 2016.” This controversial new law has a sunset provision where it is set to expire in 2016, when lawmakers will be forced to deal with this thorny issue once again.

On one side of the issue is the challenge the state of Tennessee faces in dealing with the ever-increasing numbers of newborns who are born addicted to drugs. Under this new law, if mothers get into and complete a drug treatment program before giving birth they can avoid criminal charges.

On the other side of the issue is the fact that criminalization has never proven to deter anyone from using illegal drugs. It is not going to encourage already drug-addicted mothers to seek the pre-natal care they need, or drug treatment to help them get free of drugs.

The ACLU-TN is challenging this law, which criminalizes drug-addicted moms when their infants are born addicted to drugs, and they are currently seeking plaintiffs to challenge the law.

If you are someone who is struggling with drug addiction, we encourage you to find a drug treatment program and get help. Penalties for drug charges in Tennessee can be steep and you will be dealing with the repercussions for a long time to come. If you are facing drug charges, give us a call and discuss your case with an experienced Tennessee drug crimes attorney.