Victory in Texas!

March 30, 2006

Today in a 3-0 unanimous decision, the Seventh Court of Appeals of Texas reversed the convictions of Tracy Ward and Rhonda Smith.

Ms. Ward and Ms. Smith were charged and convicted of Delivery of a Controlled Substance to a Child, based on the claim that they used an illegal drug while pregnant. Under the lower court's interpretation of the State's drug delivery statute, pregnant women who continue their pregnancies to term in spite of a drug problem are drug dealers who may be subject to 20 years imprisonment.

In April of 2005, NAPW, with attorney Bernadette Hoppe & Suzanne Sangree, filed an amicus brief on behalf of more than 20 leading state and national public health, child welfare, and drug treatment organizations and experts asking the Seventh Court of Appeals of Texas to overturn the convictions of Yolanda Ward and Rhonda Smith. The amicus sought this result because the arrests and convictions were not authorized by Texas law, and because they violated well-established consensus in the medical community that such prosecutions are irrational, ineffective, and counterproductive. (For a complete list of organizations and individuals. . .)
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While the decision in this case is a significant victory, much work still needs to be done to: 1) ensure a significant increase in access to effective, non-punitive family drug treatment options, and 2) a cultural/political shift that makes it unthinkable to treat pregnancy and pregnant drug users as proper subjects of the criminal law.

NAPW congratulates lead counsel Professor Larry Cunningham who along with and Joe Dawson argued the appeal.

The opinion can be read at: