Sunday, 18 January 2009

Quick hit: Pregnant drunk-driver going to jail?

Readers may remember a while back that a pregnant woman was found to be over twice the legal limit whilst driving in Rotorua. She's up for sentencing shortly.
"This is her eighth conviction for drink driving. It speaks for itself."

Judge McGuire remanded Brown remanded on bail but said that was only because she was the sole caregiver of her two children and those of her partner, who was in jail.

"You are on bail purely on account of your children. If not for them, you would be remanded in custody," the judge said.

From reading the article it sounds like Brown has a major problem about drinking and driving, quite apart from whether she is pregnant or not. Should her pregnancy at the time be considered an aggravating factor during sentencing?


Cat said...

Should her pregnancy at the time be considered an aggravating factor during sentencing?

As far as I know, drinking while pregnant isn't a crime. Drinking and then driving is, and that's what she is being convicted for.

Drinking while pregnant shows a lack of judgment and responsibility to her unborn child, but surely the only way you take the pregnancy into account would be to say she was knowingly doing damage to the child - and then you get onto very shakey ground. It wouldn't be that far away from abortion being wrong because of the rights of the child etc. (I know there's probably quite a big gap, but that's the path you'd be heading down).

Anna said...

I don't think it is that big a gap, Cat - I'm thinking of Susan Faludi writing in Backlash about all the nuttiness that took place after the foetus gained some legal personhood in certain states in the US.

Having said that, foetal health is a big public health issue - it's really a matter of how it's dealt with. I can't imagine that a punitive response would ever get a mother to care for her foetus better - a supportive one seems better.

The judge would certainly be on shaky ground if he admitted that foetal health was a factor in his sentencing - I don't know of any legal precedent for this, although someone with law nous might be able to correct me.

The drink driving is itself a pretty difficult issue, and as you point out Cat, that's what she's been charged with. When people drink drive because they're too lazy to organise other transport, think they can sneak home on a back road with no one noticing, etc, it's easier to justify a punitive response than when someone quite clearly has an alcohol problem. Not wanting to do amateur psychoanalysis on a woman I've never met, but raising at least four kids by yourself while your partner's is prison can't be easy...

Dave said...

If she was a police officer that would be seen as an aggravating factor as to whether she would have been likely to have been arrested in the first place. Now, if she was a pregnant cop there wouldnt even be an investigation.

Julie said...

I completely agree about the slippery slope. There is a lot of societal disapproval (and education about the effects) of drinking whilst preggers, and really that is the only way we can police it imho.

@ Dave, I have no idea what you are on about, care to expand?