A woman jailed for alleged drug use while pregnant filed a lawsuit against the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office, arguing she was never pregnant. AL.com reports. The lawsuit filed by Stacey Freeman claims investigators put a child’s words ahead of medical confirmation.
According to the lawsuit, Freeman was being investigated by the Department of Human Resources for drug use when one of her children told a social worker their mother was pregnant. Freeman offered to take a pregnancy test, and Etowah County Department of Human Resources officials ordered one. Freeman was never tested, and he was the Etowah County Sheriff Investigator Brandy filler issued an arrest warrant for her.
In 2013, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the Chemical Hazards Act applies to pregnant women and fetuses. Back then, the law was passed to protect children from the dangers of home meth labs. Now the law is being used to arrest and imprison women, even if they end up giving birth to healthy babies.
Freeman was arrested for chemical endangerment of a child and sent to the Etowah County Detention Center on February 1. She was released about 36 hours after her arrest and the charges were dropped. your lawyer Martin Weinberg argues that the ordeal still embarrassed his client.
“It’s just embarrassing that you can tell someone the word that someone is pregnant,” Weinberg said AL.com. “It’s easy to prove with a pregnancy test.”
The lawsuit names Fuller and the Etowah County Sheriff Jonathan Horton.
Freeman faced standard chemical hazard bail conditions in Etowah County, which required her to put up $10,000 in cash and go to rehab.
District officials have subsequently ended this practice in most cases Reports from AL.com that the practice was excessive. Corresponding AL.compolice arrested Ashley Banks on May 25 with a small amount of marijuana and a handgun without permission to carry. Banks admitted to smoking weed the same day she found out she was pregnant – two days before her arrest. In Etowah County, that meant she couldn’t leave prison unless she went to a drug rehab clinic. She was held in prison for three months.
The lawsuit argues that Fuller was involved in “an obscene number of arrests of pregnant and postpartum women.” research of Pregnancy Justice found that Etowah County arrested and prosecuted more women for drug use during pregnancy than any other county in the state. More than 150 women were identified by their researchers, and Fuller was implicated in most of the cases.
“Pregnant women and new mothers should never have been unconstitutionally incarcerated in the Etowah County Jail for a single day, let alone months.” said Emma Roth, Prosecutor at Pregnancy Justice and lead counsel in Pregnancy Justice’s Etowah cases. “While we are thrilled that they are finally being released, the trauma inflicted on them and their young children by their long separation can never be reversed. Etowah County’s policy change is a sensible first step, but maternity justice won’t stop fighting until drug use and pregnancy are treated as a public health issue, not a reason to put mothers behind bars.”
“The sheriff’s department and its associates were ruthless in investigating the arrests of women on chemical hazards charges and then encouraged their prosecution,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges false imprisonment, defamation and negligence by the Etowah County Sheriff’s Department. It said investigators took the word of a minor and failed to confirm the facts before arresting and jailing Freeman. As a result, Freeman suffered public humiliation.
Her charges were dropped but not erased, leaving the case available as a public record. The warrant erroneously states that Freeman tested positive for marijuana, amphetamines and alcohol while pregnant.
“Glad the charges were dropped” said Vineyard. “But it does hurt to arrest someone and spend two days in jail. Wrongful arrest and malicious arrest are inherently problematic.”
Alabama has long been the national leader in arrests of women who use drugs during pregnancy, although this is reported by The Marshall ProjectThe border and AL.com notes that this approach is spreading to other states, including Oklahoma and South Carolina.