Talbot Mother Faces Drug Charges

Newborn had narcotics in his system

ACLU has challenged county

October 15, 2005|By CHRIS GUY | CHRIS GUY,SUN REPORTER

EASTON -- Authorities here put another mother in jail this week and charged her with endangering the life of her newborn child by using drugs while pregnant. It is the sixth such case brought by Talbot County prosecutors in the past three years.

Stephanie E. Robbins, 24, was arrested Tuesday at her home in the rural community of Wittman. She is charged with reckless endangerment and possession of drugs. Test results showed drugs in the bloodstream of Robbins' child, who was born at a Baltimore hospital, authorities said.

The baby is being cared for by the county's Department of Social Services, officials said.

Robbins, who is being held on $15,000 bail at the Talbot County Detention Center, declined to speak to a reporter yesterday, according to Capt. Horace Johnson, a spokesman at the jail.

Robbins' arrest comes two months after the American Civil Liberties Union challenged Talbot County State's Attorney Scott G. Patterson for prosecuting women who deliver babies found to have illegal drugs in their systems.

Such cases are not prosecuted anywhere else in Maryland, and only one state, South Carolina, tries similar cases, according to Maryland ACLU attorney David Rocah.

"This kind of case has been tried around the country and found to be illegal, improper and unconstitutional," Rocah said. "Talbot is the only place in Maryland where it is even an issue."

The ACLU says that because Maryland law does not define a fetus as a person, a mother shouldn't be prosecuted for conduct that could endanger her unborn child.

Patterson would not discuss the specifics of any active case. But the 15-year veteran prosecutor said yesterday that he will continue to pursue cases in which children are born with drugs in their systems.

"The first of these came to our attention when a child was born with alarmingly high levels of cocaine in his system," Patterson said. "The police officer filed charges, and my office followed through. We're talking about babies with drugs in their systems that could only have gotten there through their mothers."

In August, the ACLU appealed to Maryland's second-highest court on behalf of another Talbot County woman, 30-year-old Kelly Lynn Cruz. She was convicted of reckless endangerment of her infant son, who had drugs in his system when he was born in January.

Cruz, who has been incarcerated since March, is serving a 2 1/2 years in state prison while awaiting her hearing before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which is scheduled for February, Rocah said.

Cruz and Robbins are among at least five mothers charged in such cases in Talbot. One received a suspended sentence. Another served jail time and has been released. Another woman who was a repeat offender is serving a five-year sentence.

Still another woman, Regina Kilmon, 39, who pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment in January, has filed an appeal, Patterson said.

"Until the appellate court tells us something different, this is the way it stands," he said.

chris.guy@baltsun.com

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