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Wyoming Bill Would Create Crimes of Drug-Induced Infant Homicide, Abuse

baby in hospital
Abid Katib, Getty Images

Four Wyoming House representatives and a senator are backing a bill that would create new drug crimes against infants for which people could be arrested, tried and sentenced.

House Bill 215 would also provide enhanced penalties in cases where a person delivers drugs to a pregnant woman.

Under the amended statute, a person would be guilty of drug-induced infant homicide if that person “knows or reasonably should know themselves to be pregnant” and intentionally uses any amount of methamphetamine or a Schedule I or II narcotic drug, the person gives birth to a viable infant during or after drug use, and the infant dies or drug use contributes to the infant’s death.

Drug-induced infant homicide would be a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, should the bill become law.

Under the proposal, drug-induced infant abuse would be a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

A person would be guilty of that crime if the person uses an illegal narcotic drug while pregnant and gives birth to a child who tests positive for any amount of the drug.

The bill sets forth an affirmative defense against such a charge: should the person seek treatment for substance abuse before the infant is born and, after giving birth to the infant, continue and successfully complete treatment, that could be presented as a defense which could mitigate the legal consequences.

The bill also amends the state’s definition of abuse. Under the proposal, abuse would include a person:

…engaging in a course of conduct that results in a child testing positive at live birth for methamphetamine or a controlled substance which is a narcotic drug listed in Schedule I or II of the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act.

Finally, the bill would define penalties for anyone who delivers meth or drugs listed in Schedule I or II to a person they “know or reasonably should know is pregnant.”

Such an offense would land a person in prison for 10-25 years and potentially subject them to a fine.

But if the pregnancy of the person who received the controlled substance is terminated in whole or in part — regardless of whether the human embryo or fetus survives — as a result of using the drug delivered to them, the person who delivered the drug could be sent to prison for 20-50 years and have to pay a fine of $50,000.

For sentencing purposes, the bill provides thresholds for an offender who “reasonably should know” a person is pregnant.

If the pregnant person is less than 16 weeks into the pregnancy, it would be presumed that anyone who delivered a controlled substance didn’t know the person was pregnant.

Between 16 and 22 weeks into the pregnancy, there would be no presumption on whether the person who delivered a controlled substance reasonably knew the person was pregnant.

But after 22 weeks, it would be presumed that anyone who delivered a controlled substance reasonably knew the person was pregnant.

The bill was introduced and referred to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

It is sponsored by Rep. Jim Blackburn (R-Cheyenne), Rep. Mark Jennings (R-Sheridan), Rep. Jared Olsen (R-Cheyenne), Rep. Nathan Winters (R-Thermopolis) and Sen. Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower).

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