The judge made the right call in the case of a pregnant Ravalli County woman charged with criminal endangerment for after testing positive for drugs. District Judge Jeffrey Langton threw out the charge this week, saying it had no basis in law.
“In order to construe the criminal endangerment offense to include a fetus as a potential victim, the court would have to insert ‘fetus’ into the statutory language,” Langton wrote in his decision. “The judge is to declare what is in the terms, not to insert terms that have been omitted.”
Langton called Prosecutor Thorin Geist's argument that the fetus was a victim, because the Montana Legislature amended the deliberate homicide and mitigated deliberate homicide statutes to include a fetus as a victim “contrary to the plain language of the criminal endangerment statute, is contrary to the rules of statutory construction, and runs counter to common sense.”
The case was outrageous from start to finish. Geist charged Casey Allen with criminal endangerment for harming her fetus just six days after he prevented her from going to inpatient substance abuse treatment.
Not only does the idea of criminal endangerment of a fetus fly in the face of the law, but Geist's cynical actions denying Allen with the opportunity for treatment and then charging her for using drugs show an utter lack of compassion or common sense.
The Montana Reproductive Rights Coalition, which includes the ACLU of Montana and other organizations committed to reproductive freedom, condemned Geist's actions. We are pleased that Judge Langton stood up to this clear case of bullying and prosecutorial activism.