California has some very liberal laws when it comes to abortion, but when a woman decides to have a child, the state also attempts to protect the life of the unborn fetus. That’s why killing a fetus is still considered murder and in a recent news story, a woman is even being charged with murdering her own child when she had a stillborn after using methamphetamines while pregnant. Here’s what Oceanside criminal lawyer Peter Liss says people should know about the case.
Toxic Methamphetamine Levels
In the case in question, Chelsea Cheyenne Becker was arrested after delivering a stillborn child that had methamphetamine levels more than six times what is fatal to a fetus. Prosecutors believe she used the drug nearly the entire time she was pregnant and she did confess to using meth only a few days before delivery. This isn’t the first time Becker used meth while pregnant either. In fact, she had given birth to three other children who were born with the drug in their system and who were taken from her custody as a result.
California’s Fetal Homicide Law
Under California’s fetal homicide law, someone can face murder charges if they kill a fetus in California. Generally these charges are applied to other persons besides the mother so if a killer murders a pregnant woman they can be charged with two murders rather than one. In fact, it is relatively rare for a mother to be charged under these laws and while charges were brought up in a similar case in 1992, it was thrown out by the courts.
It’s not surprising that the prosecutors are shooting for first-degree murder charges in this case. There is no corresponding charge for fetal manslaughter, so the prosecution is hoping that if the charges are reduced, then they can still get a conviction for second-degree murder. If that fails, the charges will either need to be dropped entirely or reduced all the way to battery or assault.
Can She Fight the Charges?
Most defense attorneys in Oceanside agree that proving that the mother had intent and malice enough to justify any murder charges will be difficult, but the fact that she has already given birth to three other children while continuing to do drugs can help back up their claims that she knew what she was doing was an unacceptable risk. That being said, it is difficult to prove drug addicts have the subjective awareness required to show they understand their drug use will likely result in death or great bodily injury to a child. The nature of drug addiction causes people to make decisions that dot not demonstrate an understanding of the risks of their behavior.
Additionally, many are questioning the decision to charge the mother, arguing that what pregnant woman with substance abuse issues need is support and services to help them during their pregnancy, not threats of criminal charges if they fail to overcome their addictions. In fact, Oceanside criminal attorneys agree that this is likely to be the defense used by her lawyer.
If you have been accused of any crime related to drug use or the abuse of a child, it’s critical you contact an Oceanside defense lawyer as soon as possible. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation as soon as possible.
Image by Alexas_Fotos