Mother is imprisoned for exposing baby to meth

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SANDPOINT — Jurisdiction was retained Tuesday in the case of a Sandpoint woman accused of exposing her child to methamphetamine by using the drug while breastfeeding.

That means Samantha Lee Caroline Morikawa will have to spend up to a year in prison before she can be considered for release onto probation, according to 1st District Court documents.

Morikawa, 25, was charged with felony injury to a child for exposing her 5-month-old child to the drug from August of last year until January of this year. A pretrial settlement reduced the offense to attempted injury to child in exchange for a plea.

Morikawa claimed she was unaware she would pass the notoriously addictive central nervous system stimulant to her daughter by breastfeeding, court documents indicate.

Morikawa was charged following a domestic dispute with the child’s father on Jan. 22 in Sagle. The father said he discovered messages on Morikawa’s phone regarding obtaining and using meth, a probable cause affidavit said.

The father took the child from Morikawa, who allegedly attacked him, which resulted in charges of attempted strangulation and domestic battery in the presence of a child, both of which are felony offenses.

A hair follicle test showed the presence of amphetamine and methamphetamine in Morikawa’s system, the affidavit said.

The plea agreement dismissed the attempted strangulation count and amended the domestic violence charge to aggravated assault, which is also a felony.

Deputy Public Defender Susie Jensen recommended probation and a period of local incarceration because Morikawa is enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program, has tested negative for drugs while on pretrial release and regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous programs. Jensen added that her client is also seeking treatment for underlying mental health issues.

“I don’t think that the retained jurisdiction is going to offer any additional programs that will help her,” Jensen said, urging against Morikawa’s placement in the rider program.

Bonner County Deputy Prosecutor Katie Murdock disagreed.

Murdock noted that Morikawa record shows an escalating level of violence in since 2012 and sustained drug use since that time. Moreover, Morikawa reported she is pregnant with her fourth child, which could be jeopardized if Morikawa were to relapse and resume using drugs.

“We do think she needs more structured treatment in order to be able to get over that and to reduce the risk to her children,” said Murdock.

Morikawa said she does not take her criminal troubles lightly.

“I’m aware that the trouble I caused was not small at all. I’m trying really hard,” said Morikawa.

Judge Barbara Buchanan said she appreciated the progress Morikawa has made, but expressed doubt about her ability to turn a corner on years of addiction so swiftly.

“My job is to try to get you cleaned up and be productive but my most important job is to protect those children,” said Buchanan.

Buchanan imposed concurrent two- to four- year terms and retained jurisdiction over Morikawa.

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