Police serving a search warrant at an Oklahoma City home allegedly found filthy and dangerous conditions that prompted the removal of three children from the home.
Charges of Drug Possession and Child Endangerment
Police arrested Shellie Stewart, 48, and Allan Stone, 38, on complaints of drug possession and child endangerment, after they allegedly discovered a home strewn with used drug needles and methamphetamine and oxycodone in reach of children. A police report indicates that the house was so cluttered and dirty that it was difficult to maneuver through the home, and that drugs, drug paraphernalia, and sex toys were within easy reach of the three children living in the home. Because of concern about the children's contact with body fluids and drugs, and because of alleged unhygienic conditions in the home, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) removed the children from the home and placed them in the custody of their grandmother.
State law explicitly defines child endangerment and child neglect. These are serious felony offenses which carry significant prison terms upon conviction. In fact, child neglect is punishable by a maximum of life in prison.
Oklahoma Children and Juvenile Code
The Oklahoma Children and Juvenile Code, Title 10A of the state statutes, defines several terms related to the welfare of children in cases of abuse, neglect, or endangerment:
- A "drug endangered child" is one who is at risk of physical harm, emotional distress, or sexual abuse as a result of drug use, possession, or manufacture, cultivation, or distribution by a person responsible for the welfare of the child.
- A "deprived child" is one who is destitute, homeless, abandoned, neglected, abused, without proper parental care, or whose home is unfit due to the "depravity" of a parent, legal guardian, or person responsible for the welfare of the child.
- "Neglect" means a failure to provide care and nurturing, food, clothing, shelter, hygiene, medical care, or supervision to a child. It also includes a failure to protect a child from exposure to illegal drugs, illegal activities, or sexual acts or materials.
The Oklahoma Criminal Code, Title 21 of the state statutes, proscribes child endangerment and neglect and stipulates the associated penalties. Anyone who willfully engages in child neglect as defined in 10A is subject to a maximum term of life in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. The penalties are the same whether a person is convicted of neglecting a child or enabling child neglect. Enabling child neglect occurs when a person responsible for the care and well-being of a child allows that child to be under the care of someone who is likely to neglect the child.
Child endangerment occurs when a parent or caregiver knowingly permits one or more of the following:
- sexual abuse of the child
- exposure to the manufacture of a controlled substance
- the child to be in a vehicle operated by a person under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Defending Charges of Child Endangerment
Child endangerment is a felony punishable by a maximum of four years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. Learn more about child endangerment and child neglect on our criminal defense website, or click here to contact a criminal defense lawyer experienced at handling these challenging cases.