Mother’s conviction for fetal death overturned
One of the most difficult and controversial issues in law is the question of whether a person, specifically a woman, can be found guilty of the death of an unborn child in an accident related to the mother’s use of drugs. A judge in King’s County Superior Court recently reversed the conviction of a woman who had pleaded no contest to a charge of causing the death of her unborn child because she had been using drugs.
The woman in question gave birth to a full-term, stillborn baby on Dec. 31, 2017, at a hospital in the San Joaquin Valley. The mother admitted to having used methamphetamine drugs during her pregnancy. The doctor who attended her said that he believed the infant had died hours earlier because of the mother’s “extensive drug use.”
The woman was charged with fetal murder, and she pleaded no contest to the charges. The plea was upheld on appeal. The judge who heard the appeal said that the lower court should not have permitted the plea because California’ voluntary manslaughter law does not apply to the unborn. The judge said that “There is no crime in California of manslaughter of a fetus.”
The legal result was a decision that the woman’s plea bargain was illegal because the underlying crime does not exist in California. In reaching this decision, the judge noted that the law outlawing the death of a fetus was intended to penalize women who did something that directly caused the death of the fetus. The law was not intended to punish a mother for the death of a fetus caused by her own actions.
Anyone who faces similar charges may wish to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney for advice on how to proceed. An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide an evaluation of the evidence and an opinion on whether the evidence is likely to lead to a conviction.