/ September 17, 2008

I Hereby Order… No More Kids?

Here is a sentence you don’t hear every day…

Last week, a Texas judge ordered Felicia Salazar, a twenty year old on trial for failing to properly take care of her toddler, to have no more children as a condition of her probation.  Salazar was convicted of “injury to a child by omission,” failing to protect and treat her baby girl after she was physically abused by her father.  Both Salazar and the girl’s father have given up their parental rights, placing the baby in foster care.  Judge Charlie Baird sentenced the father, Roberto Alvarado, to 15 years in prison.  Salazar, however, was able to reach a plea bargain with the prosecutors, receiving 10 years probation.  But, Judge Baird did not seem to think that the usual conditions for probation, such as a mental health screening or community service, sufficed.  Judge Travis explained in an interview:
“When you look her background, the circumstances of this case, reasonable condition of her probation was that she not conceive or bear any children.”
Baird also points out that with the plea bargain, Salazar would have been sentenced to 10 years behind bars, in which case, she would not be able to bear children for the same period of time.
While Judge Baird says that neither Salazar nor her lawyer filed any objections to the sentence, defense attorney Kent Anschutz has since raised the question of how the provision will be enforced.  Others, including constitutional law expert Douglas Laycock, have argued that Baird’s condition is unconstitutional:
“The state rarely tries to stop people from becoming parents, so there has not been much occasion to litigate that.  But undoubtedly there is a constitutional right to have children … and I doubt that one conviction for injury to a child is enough to forfeit that right.”
Although a Michigan judge has successfully imposed a similar condition on a negligent father in the past,  the consensus among experts suggests that it is unlikely Baird’s ruling will hold up on appeal.
Source: The Wall Street Journal Law Blog

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