Alabama’s drug laws are some of the toughest in the nation. One of those laws is Alabama Code – Section 26-15-3.2: Chemical Endangerment of Exposing a Child to an Environment in Which Controlled Substances are Produced or Distributed. This is more commonly known as Alabama’s chemical endangerment law.
Since the law’s inception in 2006, the way it is used by law enforcement and prosecutors has changed dramatically. Here is what people need to know about this controversial law:
It Is Not Just About Meth Anymore
As the name implies, the law was initially created to fight the growing meth problem in parts of Alabama. It was designed to be brought against parents and other parties who are caught operating meth labs in houses where children are present, exposing those children to dangerous chemicals.
While the law is still used for that purpose, it is now also used in cases involving otherwise law-abiding parents who are caught in possession of very small amounts of drugs, including prescription drugs. One of the most controversial aspects of this law is how it has been used to target pregnant mothers.
It Targets Pregnant Mothers Disproportionately
According to an article from AL.com, women have been more likely to be prosecuted under this law than men. Research also shows that a disproportionate number of the people prosecuted under this law have been pregnant mothers.
The article explains how many of these cases involve pregnant mothers who have been drug tested without their knowledge, or whose newborn children have been drug tested without their knowledge, and the results turned over to law enforcement in a practice that some advocates claim is unconstitutional.
It Calls For Harsh Penalties
The chemical exposure law makes it a class c felony when a person “Knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally causes or permits a child to be exposed to, to ingest or inhale, or to have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia.” As such, it carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Note that there need be no evidence of any harm to the child in order to obtain a conviction.
If the child is harmed, the charge can escalate to a higher level felony and carry even more prison time upon conviction.
It Can Be Fought
A report from Propublica tells the story of one mom who was swept up in chemical exposure charges after using marijuana to treat her epilepsy. After a battle that lasted over a year, the charges against her were dropped.
Fighting these drug charges is possible, with the help of an experienced attorney. At The Bloomston Firm, we are prepared to stand up for new mothers and anyone else caught up in the snare of Alabama’s chemical exposure law. We believe that there are situations that call for treatment, not punishment, and that lives should not be destroyed because of mistakes. We encourage you to get in touch with us for more information about fighting a chemical exposure charge.