drug laws

precedent for charges against mothers who use drugs while pregnant


Hi Susie,

From what I could find, Massachusetts isn’t among the states that classify drug use by pregnant women as child abuse. You can find a summary of state’s policies here:


And here:


However, this Masachusetts case addresses the issue:

"Commonwealth v. Pellegrini, No. 87970, slip op. (Plymouth Super. Ct., October 15,1990).Josephine Pellegrini, a twenty-three year-old white woman, from Brockton, was the first woman in Massachusetts to be charged under the state's drug trafficking statute for "distributing" cocaine to her fetus after her infant tested positive for cocaine. Her family and friends describe Pellegrmni as" a battered woman who was terrified of her live-in boyfriend, the father of her three children." In October of 1990, the judge dismissed the drug charges as violating the right to privacy, principles of statutory construction, due process of law, and separation of powers."

The above info is from this website: http://advocatesforpregnantwomen.org/ which may be of interest to you.

I did find several court cases in other states in which women have been prosecuted for their drug use during pregnancy:

Reyes v. Superior Court
- Reyes, a California woman gave birth to heroin addicted twins was prosecuted by the under the criminal child endangerment statute.

State v. Black – Black was charged by the state of Florida with delivery of cocaine to a minor.

Whitner v. State
- Whitner was charged by the state of South Carolina with child endangerment after cocaine was detected in her newborn’s urine.

Related Question

Women incarcerated for "conspiracy"


It will take quite a bit of research to pin this one down, because searches such as: "incarceration statistics" women "anti drug" (0 hits) and "incarceration statistics" women conspiracy (4 hits) in usa.gov do not seem at all promising. usa.gov includes MANY state government as well as federal government reports, including congressional hearings, corrections department reports, state and federal government studies, etc. The search: "prison statistics" women drugs gets 29 hits, and might possibly lead you at least to agencies or people who are interested in the general subject of women prisoners.

The Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics has many pages of information, but I find that its imprisonment statistics do not break crimes down nearly to the detail required here. At best you may find broad categories such as "Drugs" "Drug Offenses"; maybe "narcotics trafficking" or "drug trafficking".

I think that to find this specific statistic - even if there is a report in the Bureau of Justice Statistics that just happens to mention these yearly figures for women imprisoned for this one offense - it will be best to try first in a commercial database on-site at an academic library, where you can search the full text of journal articles. For example, Academic Search Premier gets 16 articles for the TX (All Text) search: women and incarcerat* and conspiracy and Anti Drug Abuse. Quite possibly some of the cited references in these articles will lead you closer to studies that might have been done.

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