New Texas Law Could Punish Parents Who Expose Children to Dangerous Drugs
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New Texas Law Could Punish Parents Who Expose Children to Dangerous Drugs

Posted On - March 25th, 2019 | By Tim Clancy | Category - Uncategorized

Anyone who has spent much time around toddlers knows that young children are prone to putting just about anything in their mouths—hence the popularity of child-proof lids on everything from aspirin to caustic cleaning chemicals. 

For decades, Texas criminal law has supported the principle that children should be protected from dangerous substances. Parents who are alleged to have exposed their children to certain dangerous drugs may face not only an investigation from CPS, but criminal prosecution as well. However, some of the most dangerous drugs on the planet (including cocaine) are exempt from this statute simply because they’re not classified as “Penalty Group 1” drugs under Texas law.

House Bill 1261 Closes the Child Drug Exposure Loophole

As currently written, the Child Drug Exposure Law (CDEL) provides a presumption that parents who have exposed their children to certain dangerous drugs have placed these children in danger of death, bodily injury, or other mental or physical impairment. Although a parent may be able to rebut this allegation to avoid being convicted (by, for example, showing that the child picked up drugs from the street or another public place and the parent was totally unaware of this), in most cases, the CDEL’s presumption is tough to fight.

The CDEL currently classifies a “dangerous drug” as any drug that is listed in the state Health and Safety Code’s Penalty Group 1. This group includes methamphetamine, opiates, cocaine, GHB, and ketamine. However, cocaine is notably absent from the list of Penalty Group 1 drugs, even though cocaine is often sold and consumed in a form (rock) that can easily make its way into small hands.

The Likely Impact of HB 1261

House Bill 1261, which was recently referred to the Texas House’s Criminal Jurisprudence committee, amends the CDEL to broaden the scope of what constitutes a “dangerous drug” and to include drugs like cocaine. 

If HB 1261 passes the House and Senate and is signed into law, it will take effect on September 1, 2019. As a practical matter, this means that anyone who exposes a child to cocaine between now and August 31 can’t be charged under the CDEL (although they may still face charges for the purchase, sale, or possession of this drug).

And although exposing a child to opiates remains a crime under both the current and prospective versions of the CDEL, parents who have valid prescriptions for opioid-based medications will want to take extra care to keep these medications out of reach of children. Even though it’s not illegal for the prescription-holder to buy or have these drugs, allowing them to fall into the wrong hands is a serious crime under Texas law.

See Also:

Drug Crimes