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York County mom, charged after baby tests for drugs, is ninth in 6 months, police say

Consequences for drug-related arrests in South Carolina

Dozens of people are charged with drug-related charges each month in Horry County. Here are the consequences if you are caught with drugs in South Carolina.
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Dozens of people are charged with drug-related charges each month in Horry County. Here are the consequences if you are caught with drugs in South Carolina.

A Rock Hill mother is charged with felony child neglect after her infant tested positive for amphetamines and opiates.

The number of parents arrested after a child tests positive for narcotic drugs has spiked in recent months, with at least nine people charged in such incidents, police and court records show.

Ashley Tyler Branham, 24, of Rock Hill, was booked Sunday, after her 4-month-old baby tested positive for drugs following a referral to law enforcement from South Carolina child protection agents, police said.

An anonymous tip to the S.C. Department of Social Services in January told police that Branham was using drugs in front of the baby, according to a Rock Hill police report.

DSS started an investigation and the child tested positive for the drugs Jan. 11, police said.

A Family Court judge then ordered the child be taken into temporary custody by DSS, and also ordered that Branham be drug tested, according to police and court records.

Both amphetamines and meth were found in Branham’s system, Rock Hill police detective Robert Smith said in an incident report.

Kevin Brackett, 16th Circuit Solicitor, said he is very concerned about any child being exposed to illegal narcotics.

“Just being around illegal drugs puts the child in jeopardy,” said Brackett, whose office prosecutes the cases. “But when the child tests positive, that is a danger to that child.”

Cases are screened individually, Brackett said.

When there is an opportunity for a parent to overcome addiction, prosecutors can agree to sentencing that includes treatment, Brackett said. But if someone is a repeat offender, then there may be no alternative to incarceration. Brackett said.

“It is always tragic when children are put in this position,” Brackett said. “Our first priority is the safety of these children.”

Capt. Logan McGarity of the Clover Police Department, which has had two of the cases, said that most police cases where the child is tested come from referrals from DSS or other agencies.

“Meth is the new norm,” said McGarity, a former member of the York County Mutijurisdictional Drug Enforcement Unit. “The meth problem is definitely worse than it had been.”

Det. Walter Beck of the York County Sheriff’s Office has arrested two mothers in recent months when the children were positive in court-ordered testing for drugs.

“As we deal more and more with opiate addiction, meth and amphetamines, we are going to see more and more of this,” Beck said.

Beck said the hope is that the people who are arrested when their children test positive for drugs take advantage of treatment, with a goal of a hoping to save families and lives.

The most recent arrest in Rock Hill shows that the mother had court-ordered treatment.

Branham had in-patient treatment as part of her sentencing for grand larceny in 2018, court records show.

Branham has convictions from 2018 for meth possession and grand larceny, court records show. She is on three years of probation from the grand larceny conviction, where a three-year prison sentence was suspended. Branham could potentially face those three years in prison if probation officials seek to revoke her probation on that conviction.

Branham is being held at the York County jail under a $100,000 bond on the current charge of unlawful conduct toward a child. That charge carries up to 10 years in prison for a conviction.

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