Supreme Court upholds mother's drug conviction

November 26, 2013 

Evidence of a newborn baby going through drug withdrawal right after birth can be used to establish that the mother consumed illegal drugs, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

Meridian resident Sydney Lorelei Neal was charged in August 2011 with felony possession of methadone, a narcotic pain reliever that's also used to treat heroin addicts.

When Neal's daughter was born March 27, 2011, she showed signs of opiate withdrawal after her birth, according to the six-page decision. The umbilical cord was sent to a laboratory, where an analysis found the presence of methadone.

During an interview with a detective eight days after her daughter's birth, Neal denied having consumed methadone or having been prescribed the drug.

Neal's attorney disputed the charge in Fourth District Ada County Court, claiming the presence of the methadone in her daughter was insufficient to tie the drug to Neal.

Later, Neal agreed to plead guilty to the possession charge while reserving the right to appeal Judge Michael Wetherell's denial of her motion to dismiss the charge. Wetherell placed Neal on probation for five years and withheld entry of the conviction while she appealed his ruling.

The Supreme Court ruled that the presence of the drug in the umbilical cord was enough to connect it to Neal.

"For the purpose of determining probable cause, it is reasonable to infer from the positive test for methadone that (the) defendant consumed that drug; that in order to consume it, she possessed it; and that she had the requisite knowledge that what she possessed was either methadone or a controlled substance," Justice Daniel Eismann wrote.

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