TN Authorities Mistakenly Arresting Drug-Using Mothers Despite Change in Law


Tennessee women who take illegal drugs during their pregnancy cannot be arrested for the harm they do to their babies. Some end up in jail anyway, The Tennessean reports. That's because some police and prosecutors — unaware state law changed last year — pursued criminal charges thinking they had the authority to do that. They did not realize lawmakers eliminated their ability to charge women with assault or homicide against their unborn children.

Even the state attorney general overlooked the change when he issued a written opinion Jan. 7 about whether women could be prosecuted. “It baffles me. It makes me angry. It makes me embarrassed, going into jail for all of that, for something you can't even be charged with anymore,” said April Moyer, a woman jailed in February and charged by prosecutors before they realized she had not broken any law. Since The Tennessean began asking authorities about such cases, a Campbell County prosecutor read the attorney general's opinion for the first time and dropped charges against two women. Other district attorneys said they would review cases, and some pointed to dismissals in progress. Only two states — Alabama and South Carolina — allow such prosecutions, according to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

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