Mifflin County Aggravated Assault Charges Against Pregnant Woman Suspected Of Heroin Overdose
In what I believe is a legal first in Pennsylvania, police filed Mifflin County Aggravated Assault charges against a pregnant Lewistown woman who was found unresponsive in her bedroom after an apparent heroin overdose. The police are claiming that the woman assaulted or attempted to assault her unborn child by ingesting the heroin. According to the Lewistown Sentinel online news article, the woman has a history of drug abuse. Emergency medical service personnel responded to the scene and rendered treatment, and I suspect that the woman was probably taken to the hospital for further evaluation and treatment. At the hospital, blood would have been withdrawn for treatment purposes, and the police or Mifflin County District Attorney’s Office will likely get a search warrant to obtain the results of the blood work.
Pennsylvania Aggravated Assault Charge
The woman was charged with Aggravated Assault of an Unborn Child, in violation of 18 Pa.C.S.A. 2606. The charge of Aggravated Assault that was filed requires proof that the woman either recklessly caused serious bodily injury to the baby or intentionally tried to cause serious bodily injury. This Aggravated Assault charge is a first-degree felony in Pennsylvania, meaning it carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail and a $25,000.00 fine.
Another State College criminal defense lawyer pondered the legality of the charge, or questioned the ability of the police to prove the charge. The only way to prove that a “serious bodily injury” occurred would be to wait until the birth of the child and then gauge any apparent injuries. If the baby did suffer “injuries,” the prosecution would also need to prove that the injuries were caused by the drug use and not some other factor. It would also be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prove that the woman intentionally ingested the heroin with the intent to cause serious bodily injury. I am sure that the woman took the heroin because she is addicted and did so solely to get high. Being a selfish drug user is a lot different than accusing a person of taking heroin to injure an unborn child.
Insufficient Evidence, Charge Should be Dismissed
In my opinion, the Mifflin County District Attorney’s Office is going to have an extremely difficult time presenting sufficient evidence to justify the charge. I believe that everyone agrees that the woman should be closely monitored by the court system, be it through bail conditions in the criminal system or through urine testing by Children and Youth Services (CYS). I am a proud parent of three little ones, and my twins spent two weeks in the neo-natal intensive care unit when they were born, so I am aware of the preciousness of children. However, I do not believe that the charge should make it beyond the preliminary hearing stage. At this point, I do not believe that the police can show that a serious bodily injury occurred, and I do not believe that the prosecution can prove that the mother intentionally tried to seriously injure the baby.