Child Abuse and Neglect – What Happens if My Child Tests Positive for Drugs?

If your child is a newborn, toddler, or too young to seek and use drugs on their own, and they test positive for heroin or any other illicit drug, you will probably be charged with child abuse and neglect. Your child might also be removed from your care and placed with either a relative or a foster family while DSS investigates and puts a “safety plan” into place.

It happens more often than you would think – for example, a 23-year-old other was arrested last Thursday and charged with child neglect after her two-year-old child tested positive for heroin. How did heroin get into a two-year-old child’s system?

The mother may have valid defenses to the charges – the case could be dismissed, a jury could acquit the mother, or pretrial diversion programs may be an option for her. But, police and social services tend to “err on the side of caution” when a child has been exposed to a dangerous drug like heroin, cocaine, or meth.

Although there are several charges under SC law that might apply when a child is harmed, authorities will usually charge the guardian with “unlawful conduct toward a child” when a young child in their care tests positive for illicit drugs.

Child Abuse and Neglect in South Carolina

S.C. Code Section 63-5-70, “unlawful conduct toward a child,” is a felony that carries as much as ten years in prison. It covers:

  1. Abandonment;
  2. Bodily harm to a child that endangers their life or health; or
  3. Placing a child at “unreasonable risk of harm.”

What is an unreasonable risk of harm?

SC Code Section 63-7-20’s definition of “harm” and “child abuse or neglect” includes situations where a parent, guardian, or any person responsible for a child’s welfare “inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon the child physical or mental injury or engages in acts or omissions which present a substantial risk of physical or mental injury to the child.”

Depending on the facts, SC’s child neglect laws could cover:

  • Giving illicit drugs to a child;
  • Allowing another person to give illicit drugs to a child; or
  • Leaving a child unattended in a place where they could access illicit drugs.

It’s clear that allowing a toddler to access heroin would be an unreasonable risk of harm – death from overdose is an easily foreseeable consequence of allowing a two-year-old to ingest heroin or any narcotic drug.

What about marijuana, though?

Can I Be Arrested if My Child Tests Positive for Marijuana?

The danger of marijuana ingestion by young children is not so clear, however, and research has not established that exposure to marijuana is harmful to a child…

Despite this, if your young child or newborn tests positive for THC, you can expect a visit from DSS and you may be arrested and charged with child neglect – just as if the child had been exposed to heroin, meth, or crack cocaine…

SC Criminal Defense Law Firm in Myrtle Beach

Attorney Daniel A. Selwa represents clients charged with crimes in the Horry County area, including child abuse and neglect charges based on alleged drug use or drug exposure.

If you have been arrested and charged with child abuse or child neglect in SC, call now at (843) 492-5449 or send us a message online to speak with a defense lawyer today.

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