Wednesday, November 13, 2013

State v. Wade case brief

State v. Wade case brief summary
232 S.W.3d 663 (2007)

Appellant State filed an information charging respondent mother with first-degree child endangerment, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 568.045.1 (2006), for risking her child's health by using illegal drugs during her pregnancy. The Circuit Court of Buchanan County (Missouri) dismissed the information without prejudice on the ground that the child endangerment statute could not be applied to parental conduct involving an unborn child. The State appealed.


Mo. Rev. Stat. § 568.045 defined first-degree child endangerment as knowingly acting in a manner that created a substantial risk to a child less than seventeen years old. The State contended the term "a child less than seventeen years old" necessarily included an unborn child.


  • However, the appellate court concluded that there was nothing in the plain language of§ 568.045 or Mo. Rev. Stat. Chapter 568 in general (dealing with crimes against the family) to suggest that the legislature intended the term "child" to refer to a fetus.
  • Although Mo. Rev. Stat. § 1.205 generally provided legal authority for protecting the rights of unborn children,Mo. Rev. Stat. § 1.205.4 precluded any effort to prosecute a mother who caused indirect harm to her fetus by ingesting illegal drugs during her pregnancy. 
  • The fact that the legislature had enacted a series of statutes to provide prenatal education and treatment for mothers and postnatal care for children who might be affected by drug use, Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 191.725-191.745 (2000), was a further indication of the legislature's intent to avoid the criminal prosecution of mothers whose addictive behaviors might indirectly harm their unborn children.

The appellate court affirmed the dismissal judgment.

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