"Drunk Breastfeeder" Gets 6 Months in Jail

Stacey Avarinia, best know for being the woman behind the “drunk breastfeeding” case, was sentenced today in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The judge gave her 18 months in jail but suspended all but 6 months of the sentence.

Judge Sonja Clapp said she could reduce her sentence by getting substance abuse treatment. I wonder, is her allegedly woman-beating boyfriend going to get anger management treatment? Or are we only going to punish the mother, who has apparently been separated from her daughter all this time.

Said Avarinia at her sentencing:


I am working hard and continue to work to get my daughter back.

Here’s the round-up from the case, as the AP reported back in June and July:

She stated he kneed her in the chin and struck her face when she attempted to leave.

Officers observed red and swelling area on the bridge of her nose, a small scratch to her left cheek, and a red swollen area on her chin.

  • During their investigation, Avarinia breastfed her 6-week-old daughter.
  • The police seemingly found the breastfeeding part odd. Said one:

This case is more than just the breast-feeding. It was the totality of the circumstances. It is quite unusual for a mother to be breast-feeding her child as we are conducting an investigation, whether she was intoxicated or not.

  • Avarinia’s boyfriend, Delbert Harrison, was no longer at the residence when police arrived. He was never charged for his alleged assault.
  • Avarinia was charged with child neglect. She pled to this charge (as in, she did not “plead down”, as is often the case).

I’ve heard that there must be more to these charges and this case, but so far, we haven’t heard any. Don’t you think the prosecutors and police force, which look like total boneheads to the nation and the world right now, would leak some juicy tidbit if there was more to tell? I do.

There are obvious problems with this whole mess, as I’ve ranted about before.

  • Breastfeeding while drinking–or even drunk!–is not illegal. It is unethical to be wasted and try to get your nipple in a baby’s mouth, yes, but it is not illegal.
  • Technically, because she was breastfeeding, how did the “neglect” charge even go to the prosecutor?
  • Most important: This case will stop women from calling the police when abused. Whether a woman has had a drink or not, breastfeeding or not, mother or not, it will make abuse victims wary about contacting the police. Period.

Next up? I’ll report on the Dad who was arrested for holding a beer in one hand and a baby in the other. Oh wait–no.

If you’d like to hear about this case from a legal perspective, go to the aforementioned Sustainable Mothering post.

Fond the story: KXNet.com

Image: eivindw on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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  1. Why is it unusual for a woman to breastfeed while being investigated? Do they do it often enough to assume that it would be? Would they rather the infant cry and be uncomforted? Wouldn’t that be more neglectful than letting the babe nurse??
    I personally would comfort my baby to the best of my ability no matter what the circumstances.

  2. I did once call the police because of a domestic abuse situation and let me announce here that I will never, ever do that again. The police treated me (as well as him) like a criminal. I was interrogated and kept in the station for hours, after that I had to show up to court dates for which I could not afford a lawyer, at the time. It was awful. And of course cause the guy had no prior record, he was let off with nothing more than a record which would be wiped clean after a year and a restraining order.

    There was a law professor, a while ago, that had a lecture of his recorded on why people should never, ever, ever speak to the police: http://boingboing.net/2008/07/28/law-prof-and-cop-agr.html It doesn’t matter if you are innocent, sometimes things can be twisted so that you are framed or implicated in some way. Even if not, as I learned, once you get involved you are wrapped up in a greater process.

    The only way I’d bother again is if it was a Very Big Deal. That doesn’t include being a witness to a murder or other such big things.

  3. I don’t normally get too personal here, but I thought I’d share since you did, 1001.
    I, too, was snubbed by the police in a domestic disturbance. I had just gotten attacked by my ex-fiance’s new chick–and I was 20 weeks pregnant. My sister and her boyfriend had to pull her off of me. The lived below the apartment and I pounded on the floor to get their attn. The ex (and father to the unborn child who’d just gotten punched and kicked) watched and did nothing to stop her. This was after I was thrown against the wall numerous times by the ex while we were arguing. (I had swung by the house to pick up my dog, and called him first to tell him. I’d moved out a few weeks before.)

    But this was what the police saw: tall woman (6′), must be jealous (I had left him, not the other way around), probably could have defended herself. Didn’t even think that instead of fighting back, I was covering my tummy to protect my baby.
    When I mentioned that there were drugs in the house (ex had ring around his mouth a la Dave Chapelle skits, and for a long time I blamed the drugs for him doing nothing while unborn child was attacked), the policeman said, “I see what you’re trying to do here.”
    Because I was no longer living at the house, they said they couldn’t do anything. What a crock.
    The prosecutor I visited with a few times after that urged me to press charges, but I could see that I would not be believed. The police didn’t believe me or my sister or her boyfriend. Would a judge or jury be any different?
    I did get an order of protection through childbirth. He was not to have any contact with me. And the hospital was to have me as “Jane Doe” when I went into labor. Guess what? He knew the same day that his biological son was born.
    Small city BS, altogether.
    (p.s. My son has never met that man.)

  4. You know it’s obvious that the police do not know what normal breastfeeding looks like; “Oh wait honey, the police are here-you must wait to eat.”????!!!!

    Also, the situation was also scary and traumatic and nursing helps the child feel safe.

    Do we know what her blood alcohol level was? Right now it looks like she got hit and then the people who were supposed to be helping her took her kid away. I hope, hope, hope it was well warranted.

  5. Hillary,
    They never did a BAC test on her in any form.
    I’m sure that after getting hit, I might seem drunk, too.
    Still, not that it matters. Drinking while breastfeeding, no matter how we all might feel about it, is in no way against the law.
    The police quote reeks of idiocy.

  6. Thank you for sharing back. After I left my comment I felt a bit awkward about it but now think it’s ok. I think a lot of people assume that the police will protect us when we need it when unfortunately that’s not always true.

    I’m so glad you left that guy and have put together a healthy life for you and your son. How awful of that woman and your ex! I hope your son either never wants to meet him or that your ex changes radically in the meantime.

  7. wow, what a nightmare. it just shows that we’ve got a long way to go in the fight for our rights to mother freely. i can’t imagine this woman’s pain. yuck…


  1. […] Anvarinia’s sentence is more severe than I reported above. Many thanks to Cate Nelson for the heads-up on this. Send to FacebookSHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Jury Back in Drunken […]

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