For the most part society tends to frown on drug abuse. And drug abuse in front of a child, especially if the child is considered to be endangered as a result, is rarely if ever acceptable. So it’s little wonder that the couple found passed out in a car with their 3-year-old daughter strapped into the backseat were charged with second-degree child abuse.
According to the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Department, a customer reported to a Walmart store manager that there was a couple passed out in a running vehicle in the parking lot. The manager verified the information, going to see for themselves the slumped couple in the “black, older-model Chevrolet Monte Carlo”
Ryan J. Rittmaier and Nancy E. Shoopman were found, “hunched over and passed out”, according to the deputy’s report, in their car. But what made it more of a concern was the fact that their 3-year-old daughter was also in the car. Strapped into her car seat in the back of the vehicle.
Officers approached the vehicle and turned it off, waking the confused couple. In the car with them were four cans of ‘Ultra Duster’ which they had been “huffing”, along with a single can of ‘Blow Off’ from the glovebox.
Rittmaier and Shoopman were both arrested, and Child Protective Services was contacted regarding their daughter. Police at the scene described the little girl as appearing to be “happy and healthy”. Both parents admitted to officers that “huffing” in the car with their daughter had not been a smart thing to do.
But only two weeks later, having posted bond shortly after her arrest, Shoopman again encountered police while “huffing”. According to police records, Saginaw Fire Department personnel arrived on the scene to find that Shoopman had driven her car through three lawns. Unaware of what was going on around her, Shoopman continued to sit in her car and “huff” from a can of ‘Dust Off’.
Because drug use is a violation of bond, Shoopman’s bond was revoked and she was placed back into custody. Both Rittman and Shoopman were charged with child abuse in the second degree, however they both accepted a plea deal and pled guilty to a single count of third degree child abuse. Under Michigan law, child abuse in the third degree is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. That means their 3 year old daughter would potentially be without both her mother and father for up to two years. No doubt about it, drug abuse hurts families. As attorneys, we work to help parents get the help they need and keep their families together.