Jul 12, 2006

HEA 1049 Controlled Substance Crimes and Child Neglect

Child neglect is a very serious crime. No one wants to see children neglected. New Indiana legislation now qualifies some neglect as worse than other neglect, based not on the effect on the victim but on the motive or circumstances of the perpetrator. Evidently, the Indiana Legislature considers a child neglected by parents who are alcoholic, disinterested, intentionally hateful, or for a host of other reasons to be less injured than children who are neglected by a parent who runs a meth lab. I think the victims would disagree. All children deserve protection, not just those whose personal tragedy happens to play into lawmakers’ politically driven meth-crusade agenda. The new Indiana Law on Controlled Substances makes the crime of neglect of a dependent a class C felony if and only if: 1) it results from the manufacture of cocaine, methamphetamine or a narcotic drug; or 2) is committed in an area where cocaine, methamphetamine or a narcotic drug is being manufactured, delivered or financed. Child neglect is a terrible crime. Perhaps Class C felony is the appropriate charge for such a heinous crime. But what is it about the setting that makes it worse just because it involves a drug lab? Neglect is neglect and just because a parent neglects his/her children in a home that does not manufacture drugs does not make it excusable. That child is no less injured. This is similar to hate crime legislation, which in many states specifies an added penalty to a crime based on its motives. The Supreme Court ruled one such Minnesota law unconstitutional in the 1992 R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul. Crimes should be punished for their results, not their motives.

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