Court: Exposure to Drugs Means More than Just Seeing Them

Court: Exposure to Drugs Means More than Just Seeing Them

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The presence of illegal drugs in a home is not enough to trigger a state law that says children are endangered when exposed to them, the Utah Supreme Court said Friday.

"There must be an actual risk of harm. ... Exposure must go beyond mere visual or auditory exposure, such as exposure to images of drugs on television or an infant being able to see a controlled substance from the confines of a crib," the court said, 5-0.

The justices ruled unanimously in two cases involving women who were charged with child endangerment after police found drugs in their homes in Salt Lake County.

In one case, cocaine was in a purse and in a jewelry box in 2005. In the other, methamphetamine was in a set of transparent plastic drawers in 2003.

Under the endangerment law, "the child must have a reasonable capacity to actually access or get to the substance or paraphernalia or to be subject to its harmful effects, such as inhalation or touching," the court said.

"This seems a common sense interpretation of the statute," the court said.

If the mere presence of controlled substances is enough for endangerment, many people with legal prescription drugs "would be committing felonies," Chief Justice Christine Durham wrote for the court.

The justices sent the cases back to 3rd District Court, which covers Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit counties.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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