Utah Parents Who Fed Children Marijuana Charged with Endangerment of a Child

Two young children who were fed marijuana have been taken into protective custody after their parents were charged with endangerment of a child.

Concerned extended family

Extended family members contacted the Utah Division of Child and Family Services concerned for the welfare of the young children of 28 year old Jacob Francis Sickler and 40 year old Katie Jennifer Blackham. Family members told DCFS the young children were not well cared for and were being exposed to drugs by their parents. The parents were reported to have regularly used drugs near their children and in order to implement “quiet time”, had even fed their kids marijuana. The 3 and 4 year old children were removed by DCFS and a hair follicle test concluded they had marijuana and cocaine in their system. Their parents were arrested for child abuse and endangerment of a child.

Endangerment of a child

According to Utah Code 76-5-112.5, a person is guilty of a second degree felony “ . . . if the person knowingly or intentionally causes or permits a child or a vulnerable adult to be exposed to, inhale, ingest, or have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia [and] as a result . . . a child or vulnerable adult suffers bodily injury, substantial bodily injury, or serious bodily injury”. Since there were two children exposed to drugs, Sickler and Blackham will face one second degree felony for each child affected. Second degree felonies are punishable under Utah law with a possible prison term of one to 15 years for each charge as well as a fine up to $10,000 per charge.

Division of Family and Child Services

The children of Sickler and Blackham were taken into protective custody by DCFS but may be released to those family members concerned for their well-being if DCFS determines it is in the best interest of the children. According to the Utah Department of Human Services, the mission of DCFS is: “To keep children safe from abuse and neglect and provide domestic violence services by working with communities and strengthening families.” They offer parenting and other educational classes for families in an effort to prevent DCFS from having to get involved in familial affairs. When instances involving abuse or neglect arise however, DCFS will step in and remove the children from the home.

Reconnecting families

While some families dealing with criminal charges for drug abuse have family members who can step in and care for their children, others do not. In these situations, the children are then placed in foster care. DCFS states: “Foster care is a temporary intervention for children who are unable to remain safely in their homes. Children in foster care stay with a family who provides safety, nurturing, and support. Every effort is made to keep children with their families unless the safety needs of the children or legal mandates indicate otherwise.” Utah Foster Care also notes: “The primary goal of foster care is to provide a nurturing home for children until it is safe for them to return to their biological families. When it is safe to do so, returning home is best for the children.” All parents make mistakes some make choices so grave they lose their freedom and parental rights. While this loss can be permanent if the charges they face are severe, it is often temporary. The state of Utah wants to keep families together and offers support and treatment opportunities for parents, including those fighting substance abuse. Parents who are facing criminal charges where their parental rights are threatened are encouraged to seek a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can help guide them through the legal process of obtaining rehabilitation and reunification.

Felony Child Endangerment for Drugs in Reach of Children

Two individuals from American Fork Utah are facing a variety of drug charges along with felony child endangerment for storing drugs within the reach of children in the home.

Other people’s children

Child Endangerment

Photo by: Mary T Moore

25 year old Zachery Walters and 24 year old Hilary Lay were staying in the basement portion of a home that belonged to another person when they were arrested for possessing hefty amounts of cocaine and marijuana. The quantity of the drugs confiscated was large enough to bring distribution charges. While the couple knowingly possessed illegal drugs, they likely failed to realize they would also be facing additional felony charges for child endangerment since the landlord’s children had bedrooms nearby; thus potentially putting the kids at risk of coming into contact with the drugs.

3rd degree felony child endangerment

Child endangerment is a 3rd degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000. Utah Code 76-5-112.5 states regarding endangerment of a child that “a person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if the person knowingly or intentionally causes or permits a child or a vulnerable adult to be exposed to, inhale, ingest, or have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia;”

A technicality

While there are no reports or evidence that any children in the home that Walters and Lay were staying in had come in contact with drugs, section 112.5 clarifies that “exposed to” can mean that because of the where the children were in proximity to the drugs, they could have potentially possessed, seen, or even smelled the illegal drugs or paraphernalia. Although Walters and Lay will likely face some drug charges, there are other charges which could be considered questionable such as distribution and child endangerment. An experienced criminal defense attorney is always suggested but would be greatly recommended in a case such as this.