A Leesburg woman who allegedly used heroin multiple times a day while pregnant was sentenced to nine months in prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to heroin possession charges.
Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins said during proceedings that Melissa Bennett, 32, had snorted two to three lines of heroin per day while she was pregnant, and both she and the baby tested positive for heroin after the birth.
Defense attorney Adam King said one of Bennett’s family members currently has custody of the child, who is at this point less than a year old.
The family member, who was in court during the hearing, said the baby isn’t experiencing symptoms of withdrawal and seems healthy, although judge Rocky Coss said it would be several years before it’s known whether or not the prenatal drug abuse caused long-term health problems for the child.
Bennett said she didn’t know she was pregnant until three days before she gave birth, but Coss said he wasn’t buying the story.
“It’s hard for me to believe you didn’t know you were pregnant,” Coss said. “You have a history of always coming up with an excuse… I’m just done listening to excuses.”
Collins said the problem of women using drugs while pregnant is one of the side effects of the region’s opiate epidemic.
“Unfortunately, we have a lot of cases like that,” she told The Times-Gazette.
Until 2014, Collins said, she was prosecuting similar cases by charging women with corrupting another with drugs if they were found to have used drugs while pregnant.
“One of the cases got appealed, and the court of appeals said I couldn’t do that anymore,” Collins said. “They reversed it, and said you can’t charge a woman for something she does to her child while she’s pregnant.”
Collins said she has spoken to statehouse representatives and other state-level officials about changing the law, but “no one has shown very much interest.”
“I wish that Ohio would update their laws and we could do something more serious,” she said.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.