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.

70 Year Old Utah Woman in Jail for Criminal Solicitation Hires a Hitman on Witness

A 70 year old Utah woman who was in jail for trying to have her ex-husband and his wife killed back in 2016 is facing new charges of criminal solicitation after again attempting to hire a hitman; This time however, the targets were the former hitman who was a witness to the case against her and an attorney in different case.

Criminal investment

Photo by: 401(k) 2012

Linda Gillman (then 69 years old) of Herriman, Utah hired a handyman in 2016 to kill her ex-husband and his new wife. Gillman allegedly had a life insurance policy out on her ex-husband worth millions of dollars. Instead of carrying through with the plan, the hitman contacted the police who then arrested Gillman and charged her with criminal solicitation for murder.

Up to her old tricks

While already in jail for criminal solicitation, Gillman again tried to hire someone to commit murder for her. This time however, Gillman wanted her former hitman who was now a witness in the case taken out. Additionally, an attorney in an unrelated civil case was on Gillman’s hit list. Gillman had approached another inmate of the Salt Lake County Jail and offered to bail them out if they would complete the hits and destroy evidence in the case. Instead, the potential hitman (or hitwoman) went to authorities and Gillman was charged again with criminal solicitation.

Criminal solicitation

Photo by: Andrés Nieto Porras

Utah Code 76-4-203 states “An actor commits criminal solicitation if, with intent that a felony be committed, he solicits, requests, commands, offers to hire, or importunes another person to engage in specific conduct that under the circumstances as the actor believes them to be would be a felony or would cause the other person to be a party to the commission of a felony.” The penalties for criminal solicitation depend on the crime being solicited. In most cases, the penalties are one degree lower than the actual crime itself. In regards to criminal solicitation of a first degree felony that is “punishable by imprisonment for life without parole” such as murder, the penalty would also be a first degree felony.

Panhandling Laws in Utah

Utah residents may often be approached on the road or sidewalks by individuals requesting monetary donations and while panhandling is legal, there are laws that need to be followed to avoid citations.


Photo by: Steve Baker

Panhandling is simply defined as approaching and begging from a stranger. Panhandling is often done to obtain money but someone can also beg for other items such as food, clothing, or fuel. Some less fortunate individuals beg for money or food because they are unable to obtain them due to unemployment, mental or emotional illnesses, or other hardships. Sadly, panhandling is also done by those seeing the act as an easy way to get cash tax free. Regardless of the reason for accosting others for handouts, those who approach strangers should be aware of the laws regarding panhandling in Utah.

Begging near banks

Asking strangers for money is not against the law and is protected under the First Amendment freedom of speech clause. Panhandlers should never threaten or assault those who refuse to donate and Utah code 41-6a-1009 warns those soliciting money from others that they are not allowed to “solicit money or goods . . . in an aggressive manner” near a bank or ATM. As long as they are not seen as a danger to others, panhandlers are allowed to beg on the sidewalk or along many smaller Utah roads.

Approaching vehicles

When it comes to soliciting money and food on roadways, Utah Code 41-6a-1009 was updated last year to keep panhandlers away from high speed or high traffic areas. That section now states: “an individual may not impede or block traffic” by “accepting, transacting, exchanging, or otherwise taking possession or control of money or property from a person within a motor vehicle” if they are “on the interstate, freeway, highways or any road that has a “speed limit of 35 miles per hour or higher.” These areas include “shoulder areas . . . ; on-ramps; off-ramps, and an area between the roadways of a divided highway. “

Panhandling penalties

Anyone found panhandling on a busy road or an area described above as being off-limits will receive an infraction. If within one calendar year they are cited three or more times for panhandling in a restricted area, they will face a class C misdemeanor.