In June 2013, a woman who was nine months pregnant injected methamphetamines. A few hours afterwards, she went to the hospital because she was having trouble breathing. The doctor diagnosed her with acute respiratory distress. The cause? Her drug use.
The doctor said that when the body realizes that the mother is not getting oxygen, it takes blood away from the baby to help the mother. The woman underwent an emergency Cesarean second. The baby was "essentially brain dead" and died 11 days later.
A grand jury indicted the woman on one count of child neglect resulting in death, a felony. After a conviction at trial, she was sentenced to three to 15 years in prison.
The woman appealed and ruling of the lower court was reserved by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The majority option stated the state legislature includes the words "fetus," "child," and "unborn individual" in its laws and legislation. It concluded that the woman couldn't have known that she could be charged with child neglect because of what she did for her child.
As you can see, just because you may be convicted at trial does not mean you have to simply accept the sentence. An appeal is possible and it is possible that the verdict against you could be reversed.
If you are charged with child neglect, it is important to develop a defense based on strong defense strategies. An attorney who is experienced in criminal defense can help you learn more about your legal options. Not every case will require an appeal, but it could be an options in yours.
Source: Courthouse News Service, "Addict Mother Won't Be Charged in Baby's Death," Rose Bouboushian, June 01, 2016