COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – The conviction of a woman who was found guilty of felony drug possession after tests showed cocaine metabolites in her newborn baby’s system was vacated by the Ohio Supreme Court.
The Seneca County case put a spotlight on whether a mother can face drug charges if her baby is born with drugs in its system.
In a unanimous ruling, the court vacated the conviction of Kelly Foreman saying that there was no evidence that she possessed cocaine in Seneca County and that even though test results showed cocaine in her baby’s system and she admitted to ingesting the drug, she did not have control over the substance that was “assimilated into her body.”
“Foreman, by her own admission, ingested cocaine several times during her pregnancy. However, once she ingested the cocaine and it was assimilated into her body, she no longer had control over it,” Chief Justice O’Connor wrote. “Consequently, at the time of J.B.’s birth, Foreman was unable to exercise restraint, direct influence, or exert power over the cocaine that she had previously ingested.”
According to court documents in the 2018 case, Foreman admitted to using cocaine several times while she was pregnant, the most recent use about two weeks before giving birth. She also told a caseworker did not use cocaine at her residence in Seneca County.
The Seneca County prosecutor charged Foreman with one count of cocaine possession, a fifth-degree felony At her trial, Foreman did not dispute that at some point, somewhere, she possessed cocaine. But the state failed to prove Seneca County was the proper venue to charge her with the crime.
Because the prosecution failed to prove proper venue beyond a reasonable doubt, she asked the trial court to acquit her of the charge but that was denied and she was sentenced to three years of community control.
Formen appealed her conviction, which was denied by the Third District Court of Appeals and then took the case to the Ohio Supreme Court.
At issue in the case was the location where the drugs were ingested, if Foreman had control of those drugs once she ingested them, and the possibility that a person could face possession charges in every county in which they ingested a drug.