Felony Child Endangerment for Prenatal or Breastfed Drug Exposure

Two Utah mothers have been arrested within the last month for child endangerment after their babies experienced prenatal or breastfed drug exposure.

Born addicted

Photo by: Sander van der Wel

A Tooele Utah mother was arrested late last month after her baby was born prematurely and with drugs in its system. 20 year old Shay Christensen gave birth to her baby just 1 week shy of her third trimester while in the bathroom during a prenatal appointment. While the preemie survived its premature birth, both mother and infant tested positive for illicit drugs and Christensen was arrested for felony child endangerment.

Tainted breast milk

Last week a 3 day old baby boy was rushed to the hospital in St. George after the infant stopped breathing and turned blue. During an investigation, a needle full of heroin was discovered in a diaper bag and the mother admitted it was hers. 29 year old Elizabeth Canon told police she had used heroin and then breastfed her baby multiple times. After ingesting the tainted breastmilk, the baby ceased breathing and CPR was performed until paramedics arrived. Canon was booked in the Washington County Jail on felony child endangerment.

Felony child endangerment

Utah Code 76-5-112.5 states regarding felony child endangerment:

(a)“A person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if the person knowingly or intentionally causes or permits a child . . . to be exposed to, inhale, ingest, or have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia; . . .
(b)A person is guilty of a felony of the second degree if the person engages in the conduct described [above]; and as a result, a child . . . suffers bodily injury, substantial bodily injury, or serious bodily injury; . . .
(c)A person is guilty of a felony of the first degree if the person engages in the conduct described [above] and as a result of the conduct . . . a child . . . dies.”

Both Utah mothers are facing second degree felonies since their babies suffered injuries due to the parent’s drug use; One being born prematurely and with injuries from the mother using while pregnant and the other’s respiratory system going into distress after being exposed to drugs while breastfeeding. A second degree felony in Utah is punishable by a possible prison term of one to 15 years as well as fine of up to $10,000.

Substance abuse during pregnancy

Photo by: Torsten Mangner

Both Utah women are suspected of using drugs during pregnancy and while many parents couldn’t imagine exposing an unborn baby or infant to drugs, it is more common than people think. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “there was a five-fold increase in the proportion of babies born with NAS [neonatal abstinence syndrome] from 2000 to 2012, when an estimated 21,732 infants were born with NAS – equivalent to one baby suffering from opiate withdrawal born every 25 minutes.” Although many pregnant mothers are able to get rid or unhealthy or dangerous habits for the sake of their unborn child, addiction is hard for many to overcome-regardless of their born and unborn children who are depending on them to stay sober.

Seek help

Those who are looking for help with substance abuse including parents or soon to be parents are encouraged to call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-622-HELP(4357). According to their website, “SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 265-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.” They go on to note “This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.” For legal questions or aid regarding criminal charges related to substance abuse and its effect on the loved ones of those suffering from addiction, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Three Utah Women Arrested For Felony Obstruction of Justice for Helping Fugitive Evade Police

A manhunt in Herriman finally ended with the arrest of the fugitive as well as felony obstruction of justice charges for three Utah women who helped him evade police custody.

Police manhunt

Photo by: Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916

In late January startled residents of the town of Herriman, Utah were told to shelter in place and local schools were put on lockdown as police attempted to locate a 33 year old man who had shot at police, broke into a home, shot the homeowner, and then got away in a stolen vehicle. Justin Gary Llewelyn was eventually caught five days later after another police chase successfully ended with a dramatic PIT maneuver from an pursuing officer.

Help from family

Llewelyn will face numerous charges for his violent acts towards police and the public, but there are three women that are also facing charges for their part in the story. 50 year old Tasha Llewelyn, 24 year old Misty Llewelyn, and 35 year old Keria Jessica Hartley-Johnson who are all likely relatives of Justin Llewelyn are facing felony charges of obstruction of justice after they helped their fugitive relative elude investigators.

Obstruction of justice

Utah Code 76-8-306 states, “An actor commits obstruction of justice if the actor, with intent to hinder, delay, or prevent the investigation, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of any person regarding conduct that constitutes a criminal offense:

Photo by: Orin Zebest

a) provides any person with a weapon;
b) prevents by force, intimidation, or deception, any person from performing any act that might aid in the discovery, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of any person;
c) alters, destroys conceals, or removes any item or other thing;
d) makes, presents or uses any item or thing known by the actor to be false;
e) harbors or conceals a person;
f) provides a person with transportation, disguise, or other means of avoiding discovery or apprehension;
g) warns any person of impending discovery or apprehension;
h) warns any person of an order authorizing the interception of wire communications . . . ;
i) conceals information that is not privileged and that concerns the offense, after a judge . . . has ordered the actor to provide the information; or
j) provides false information regarding a suspect, a witness, the conduct constituting an offense, or any other material aspect of the investigation.”

Felony charges for helping a fugitive

Knowingly helping a friend, family member, or an acquaintance skirt being arrested by police comes with hefty charges, especially if the person being helped has committed serious offenses.
• If the charges the fugitive is trying to evade are capital or first degree felonies such is the case with Justin Llewelyn, anyone helping them faces second degree obstruction of justice.
• If the charges being dodged are second or third degree felonies and the helper prevents another from aiding authorities, removes or adds things that could be used during the investigation, or helps hide a person or aid in their escape, that accomplice could face a third degree felony.

• If someone assists a person in avoiding any charges lesser than a first degree felony and they give the fugitive a weapon, they may also face a third degree felony.

• Any other case of obstruction of justice is a class A misdemeanor.

All three women were found to have helped Llewelyn evade police custody either by hiding him, lying to officers or otherwise getting in the way of the investigation. They have all been charged with second degree obstruction of justice and are looking at a possibility of up to 15 years in prison and a fine as high as $10,000. For legal aid regarding obstruction of justice charges or any other charged related to being an accomplice to a crime, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Utah Police Search for Driver Who Left the Scene of a Deadly Hit and Run

Utah Police are searching for the driver who left the scene of a deadly hit and run accident that occurred over the weekend in St. George.

Deadly hit and run

Photo by: Tony Webster

On Saturday evening sometime between 5 and 8pm, a Utah driver struck a woman walking along Dixie Drive in St. George, just south of a busy intersection. The driver then left the scene and the woman’s body was found later by other pedestrians walking by. The victim was identified by her daughters as 53 year old Bettina Abraham. It has not been announced if Abraham was killed instantly or died alone on the side of the road after being hit.

Plea via social media

In a live video cast from the St. George Police Department, a department spokeswoman pleaded with the public to come forward with any information related to events that evening or vehicles that may have been involved. They even beseeched the person responsible to contact them to let the victim’s family receive closure and allow things to “move forward”.

Causes and consequences of deadly accidents

When someone takes the life of another with their vehicle, they may or may not face criminal charges depending upon the circumstances:

• If it is found that the driver was not at fault when the deadly accident occurred, no citations would be given.

• If the driver made an error in driving that resulted in “the death of another” but that didn’t amount to being reckless or negligent, they may be charged with negligent homicide as stated in Utah Code 76-5-206, a class A misdemeanor.

Photo by: Chris Yarzab

• If a person is driving their vehicle recklessly such as through speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, etc. and causes a deadly accident, they may face second degree manslaughter as stated in Utah Code 76-5-205.

• If the driver was using what Utah Code 76-5-207.5 describes as a “handheld wireless communication device” when the accident occurred, they may face third or second degree felonies, depending on whether or not they were also driving in a criminally negligent manner.

• If the driver was “operat[ing] a motor vehicle in a negligent manner” and “is under the influence of alcohol, any drug, or the combined influence of alcohol and any drug” they may be charged with automobile homicide, a third degree felony. If they were found to be driving in a “criminally negligent manner”, it would then be increased to a second degree felony.

Leaving the scene of an accident

Whether or not the driver was completely innocent when the deadly accident occurred or if they were acting in a criminal manner or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, if the driver flees the scene, they will face felony charges. Utah Code 41-6a-401.5 states, The operator of a vehicle who has reason to believe that the operator may have been involved in an accident resulting in the death of a person shall: immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible without obstructing traffic more than in necessary; and remain at the scene of the accident until the operator has [given driver information, rendered aid to the other person, and contacted authorities]”.

Reasons to flea

There have been many public assumptions as to why the driver chose not to stop after striking Bettina Abraham with their vehicle. Some in the community claim the driver was texting, high, drunk, or maybe not a legal driver. Others guess the driver may have been scared or distraught and fled the scene out of emotional distress over what they had done. Whatever the reason, the driver should back themselves with a reputable attorney and turn themselves into the police immediately.