Woman's drug-induced psychosis prevents knowing waiver of rights

In a truly tragic case, a Virginia woman, on a three-week bender fueled by methamphetamine, marijuana and other drugs, shot and killed her 6-year-old daughter with a single blast from a shotgun.

The woman freely acknowledged her actions to police, after signing a document that stated she understood her Miranda rights -- which include the warning that anyone in police custody has the right to remain silent in order to avoid self-incrimination.

The woman continued to speak freely to police from her hospital bed, admitting her drug use and saying she had killed her daughter to free the child from "aliens in her stomach." She believed that her actions were actually a benefit to the child because it would not only free her from aliens but ensure that the child would go to heaven when she died. She also complained of stomach pain and asked doctors to remove the aliens from her own stomach.

After the shooting, the woman was taken to a local emergency room where doctors diagnosed her with psychosis. They were unsure if the psychosis was directly related to her drug use or due to some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Now, her attorney is fighting to have the woman's confession tossed out of court, saying that her chronic drug use robbed her of the mental capacity to understand either the gravity of her situation or what she was doing when she signed the waiver the police put in front of her.

As sad and serious as this case is, it illustrates how defendants who are in a state of acute drug intoxication or drug-related psychosis may unknowingly sign away their rights and end up handing the state all of the evidence it needs to convict them. It takes a watchful attorney to prevent the state from taking advantage of the situation.

If you've been charged with a drug-related crime, it's important to get an attorney on board as quickly as possible to protect your rights.

Source: RIchmond Times-Dispatch, "Bath County woman charged with killing her daughter talked about threats from aliens," Laurence Hammack, July 29, 2017

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