MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Police are searching for a 30-year-old woman whose newborn tested positive for illegal drugs.
This is the Memphis Police Department’s first case involving a new state law that criminalizes drug use while pregnant. In other states, prosecutors aren’t able to charge mothers for drug use during pregnancy, although several states classify it as a child welfare offense.
Jamillah Washington is the first woman in Shelby County, and just the second in the state of Tennessee, to face charges under the new law.
A warrant for simple assault has been issued for Washington, who gave birth July 5 at a local hospital.
Medical personnel drug tested the baby, then notified DCS after receiving the positive results.
DCS then informed MPD on July 17 that the baby was addicted to drugs. The Sex Crimes/Juvenile Abuse completed its own investigation and then issued the warrant.
If you can help police find Washington, call CrimeStoppers at 528-CASH.
“That important bonding time between mother and son, or mother and daughter, is now being halted because this woman has to go to jail,” Cherisse Scott said.
Washington’s neighbor, Tina Askew, said, “Putting her in jail won’t help her addiction.”
A Knoxville woman was the first mother charged under the new law. Police arrested her as she was being discharged from the hospital.
Scott says the practice may discourage drug-addicted mothers from getting prenatal care, and could split up other families.
Advocates of the law say babies born to drug addicted mothers is a growing problem and that something must be done to address it.