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Passing Illegal Drugs from Mother to Baby Through Umbilical Cord is Not Child Endangerment in Nevada


January 1995

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the state child endangerment law does not apply to a mother passing illegal drugs to her baby through the umbilical cord (Sheriff, Washoe County, Nevada v. Encoe, Nev S.Ct., 885 P.2d 596, Nov. 30, 1994).

Cathy Encoe was charged with child endangerment when her child tested positive for amphetamines and methamphetamines shortly after birth.

The state conceded that the child endangerment statute would not apply to a fetus, but argued that Encoe had transmitted drugs between the time the baby was born and the time that the umbilical cord was cut.

The court ruled the statute was not designed for such application. "We conclude that prosecuting a mother for the delivery of a controlled substance to her child through the umbilical cord is a strained and unforeseen application of the statute," the court said.