The lawsuit alleges that a single inspector in the Etowah County in the sheriff’s office has been involved in the arrests of dozens of women suspected of doing drugs while pregnant.
An Alabama woman arrested for allegedly using drugs while pregnant has filed a lawsuit against Etowah County officials, claiming that she was never pregnant and that investigators took the word of a child when deciding to take her into custody.
According to AL.com, plaintiff Stace Freeman of Gallant was being investigated by the Department of Human Resources for substance abuse when one of her children told a social worker that Freeman was pregnant.
Freeman then offered to take a pregnancy test, which the Etowah County Department of Human Resources then ordered.
However, Freeman never took the test and Etowah County Sheriff Investigator Brandi Fuller then issued a warrant for her arrest.
Freeman was arrested for chemical endangerment of a child on 1 February and booked into the Etowah County Detention Center. She was released within 36 hours, with the sheriff’s office dropping all charges against her.
Despite being freed, an attorney for Freeman says the experience was nonetheless traumatic.
“It’s just shameful that you can go off somebody’s word that somebody’s pregnant,” attorney Martin Weinberg said. “It’s easy to verify through a pregnancy test.”
AL.com notes that Freeman’s mugshot was later circulated and can still be found online.
“She’s still having people stop her and say, ‘Weren’t you charged with using drugs while pregnant?’” Weinberg told AL.com. “There is still embarrassment.”
The lawsuit further alleges that Freeman was menstruating at the time of her arrest, yet was not afforded access to any feminine hygiene products.
When Freeman was released, Fuller purportedly warned her that she could face additional charges if she later became pregnant.
Fuller, states the lawsuit, has been involved in “an obscene number of arrests for pregnant and postpartum women.”
The complaint also cites research by Pregnancy Justice that suggests that Etowah County arrested and prosecuted more women for drug use while pregnant than any other county in Alabama.
Pregnancy Justice identified at least 150 women arrested in Etowah County, observing that Fuller was involved in most of the investigations.
“The Sheriff’s department and its employees have been reckless in investigating in making arrests of women for chemical endangerment and then encouraging their prosecution,” the lawsuit states.
Weinberg told AL.com that, even though the charges against his client have been dropped, Freeman’s arrest has not been expunged and remains a matter of public record.
“It’s good that the charges were dropped,” Weinberg said. “But there’s harm in someone even being arrested and spending two days in jail. Wrongful arrest and malicious arrest is problematic on its own.”