Pubdate: Sat, 22 Jan 2005
Source: Modesto Bee, The (CA)
Copyright: 2005 The Modesto Bee
Author: John Holland
Bookmark: (Youth)


A state lawmaker said Friday that he will introduce a bill aimed at people 
who use illegal drugs in the presence of children and teenagers in their care.

Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian, R-Stockton, is acting at the request of Linda 
Taylor of Turlock, who said too many young people suffer when adults around 
them use drugs.

The bill would mandate felony child-abuse charges if parents, guardians or 
other people used drugs while caring for anyone under 18.

"The whole idea is if you have some responsibility for a child and you are 
doing drugs in front of that child, that should be a felony," said 
Aghazarian, whose district includes part of Stanislaus County. "It shocks 
the conscience that this is not a felony already."

The bill could be introduced in the Assembly in about three weeks, said 
Gail Delihunt, legislative director for Aghazarian.

Drug use generally is treated as a misdemeanor under state law, with 
penalties that can include jail time, probation, fines and treatment 
programs. Drug sales and manufacturing can bring felony charges and state 
prison time.

Existing penalties for felony child abuse carry up to six years in prison, 
according to the California Penal Code.

A felony child-abuse charge is an option already if a parent or guardian is 
endangering children by using drugs, a spokesman for the Stanislaus County 
Sheriff's Department said earlier.

Taylor said she wants to counter what she sees as a movement to "legalize 
drugs in increments," evident in Proposition 36, approved by the state's 
voters in 2000. The proposition mandated treatment rather than jail time 
for many convicted users.

Taylor was a leader in the successful effort to build the Turlock Skate 
Park, a cause she took up after her teenage son, Anthony, was cited for 
illegal skateboarding.

She said the skate park campaign brought her in contact with young people 
who told her "horror stories" about parents hooked on drugs. She said a 
Ceres girl told her that she cuts her arm with a knife for "stress relief 
from the fact that her mom uses meth."

Taylor wrote state and federal lawmakers last summer with her proposal for 
child-abuse charges. She said Friday that she no longer is seeking federal 
legislation, but would like other states to enact such laws.

"If you have the care, custody and control of children, you don't have the 
right to use drugs," she said. "I don't care who you are." 
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