(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), November 23, 2013— Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) and Representative Dale Carr (R-Sevierville) have filed legislation to ensure parents who knowingly expose their children to the manufacture of methamphetamines can be charged with child abuse and neglect, regardless of whether the child has sustained physical injuries. The proposal will come before the Tennessee General Assembly when lawmakers return to Nashville in January.
“Exposing a child to this dangerous environment should constitute child abuse and neglect — period,” said Senator Overbey. “Charges should not hinge on whether physical injuries are visible on the child at the time of discovery of the meth lab. Problems with exposure can occur later, as well as obvious psychological problems the child incurs due to involvement of their parents or guardian in this kind of criminal activity.”
Currently, parents who knowingly expose their child to the manufacture of methamphetamines are not in violation of Tennessee’s child abuse and neglect law if injuries are not present. Overbey and Carr’s proposal would amend “Haley’s Law” to provide that child abuse and neglect charges can be filed against the parents if the child is knowingly exposed to an active or prior meth lab. Haley’s law, which was first passed by the legislature 2005, raised most child abuse charges to felonies, added new changes to the code for aggravated child neglect and endangerment, and added mandatory life sentences for anyone convicted of child torture in the state.
“The long-term physical effects of meth exposure are still being researched,” added Rep. Carr. “Just because the child does not have visible injuries present, does not mean that the child will not suffer the effects of the manufacture of this illegal drug in the future. There are many levels of problems which can occur with exposure, whether it is developmental, mental, social or emotional.”
Overbey and Carr said the proposed legislation came from discussions with Detective Mike Seratt with the Blount County Sheriff’s Office. It has also been discussed with the Blount County Child Protective Investigation Team.
“No child should have to suffer from the effects of manufacturing meth,” added Senator Overbey. “We will proceed with this bill in January and hope that it will be approved before the legislature adjourns.”