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The word "child" as used in La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:93 does not include "unborn child" and denotes a more narrow class of human beings than "person" as defined in La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:2(A)(7).
Defendant used drugs and alcohol during her pregnancy. When she prematurely gave birth to her sixth child, she was intoxicated and tested positive for cocaine and amphetamines. The infant was born extremely premature, tested positive for drugs, and died two months after her delivery. Defendant was indicated by a grand jury for cruelty to juveniles in violation of La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:93. She moved to quash the indictment, but the district court denied her motion. Defendant sought supervisory review of the district court’s order, arguing that her actions only harmed the victim during pregnancy when the victim was a fetus and not legally a child under the statute.
Could the defendant be held liable under La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:93 for using drugs or alcohol prior to the birth of her child?
On review, the court held that the state legislature did not intend for the term "mistreatment or neglect" as used in La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:93 to include within its reach pregnant mothers who used drugs or alcohol prior to the birth of the child and later gave birth to a child who suffered from the prenatal conduct. Although defendant was clearly grossly negligent in ingesting drugs and alcohol during her pregnancy, the fetus that she harmed was not a "child" as defined by the statute at the time of her acts. Further, the statute applied to voluntary acts, and the transmission of drugs and alcohol via the umbilical cord was not a voluntary act or something over which defendant had any control. Accordingly, the ruling of the district court was reversed, and the case was remanded with instructions to grant the motion to quash the indictment.