A 26-year-old Arizona woman was sentenced on Wednesday to up to three years in prison for keeping her toddler in a Sidney, Nebraska motel room while drugs were being sold there, The Associated Press reports. The woman pleaded guilty to felony child abuse charges in February.
Monica Griffith, of Sierra Vista, sought probation for her crimes. However, the Cheyenne County District Court judge sentenced Griffith to 18 to 36 months in prison.
In response to Griffith’s request for parole, prosecutors cited the fact that the 18-month-old child’s hair tested positive for cocaine, making it likely that the toddler had ingested the drug. In addition, authorities noted that the child has developmental issues which may have been a result of Griffith’s drug use.
While most cases of child abuse involve some kind of affirmative action taken by a parent or guardian, whether physical or psychological abuse, Griffith’s case involves a more passive act, raising her child in an environment in which the toddler was exposed to drugs on a daily basis. Most child abuse laws, however, punish both abusive acts and the failure to act in situations where parent intervention is required for the child’s wellbeing.
If Griffith had committed the acts in Arizona, she would be prosecuted under Arizona Code 8-201. Under the law, child abuse is defined as the “infliction or allowing of physical injury, impairment of bodily function or disfigurement… and is caused by the acts or omissions of an individual having care, custody and control of a child.”
The statute goes on to list specific situations that constitute abuse, including “permitting a child to enter or remain in any structure or vehicle in which volatile, toxic or flammable chemicals are found.” Griffith’s actions would likely fall under this category, as cocaine is potentially highly toxic to a toddler.
A Nebraska juvenile court is currently determining who will care for Monica Griffith’s child while she serves her sentence.