Prison for mom's heroin incident; lawyer calls her a 'beacon'
A Hallam woman must spend 75 days in prison for losing consciousness after snorting heroin while in the driver's seat of her idling car with her infant son in the back.
Victoria Ann Lau, 24, of Freysville Road, pleaded guilty April 11 to child endangerment and driving under the influence/second-offense, according to court records, which state there was no plea agreement in place.
On Monday, she was sentenced to five years of intensive probation, with the first 75 days to be served in York County Prison. She must report to prison June 25, records state.
Lau also must perform 100 hours of community service, pay a $2,500 fine and complete a year of the Avertest program, according to her defense attorney, T.L. Kearney.
"Every day she'll be required to call in (to Avertest), to see if she's 'up' to be drug-tested," he said. The attorney explained that defendants in the Avertest program must call the company every day, even weekends and holidays, to see if they will be randomly selected for drug-testing.
Participants are usually tested multiple times each week, he said.
Kearney called presiding Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook's sentence a wise one, because it not only punishes Lau, it also will help her maintain her sobriety.
'Became a beacon': The attorney said Lau was addicted to heroin — "a really horrible substance."
"She had been through the drug treatment court program, and she relapsed after that, which led to this case," Kearney said. "But as soon as this happened, she dug in."
Lau immersed herself in treatment and is now able to be a good example as well as a cause for hope, according to her attorney.
"She actually became a beacon to other people in treatment and a role model to others in treatment," Kearney said.
She is focused "on the greater good," and taking it one day at a time, according to the defense attorney.
"It'll be that way for the rest of her life," Kearney said.
The background: According to charging documents, witnesses called York Area Regional Police and an ambulance crew to the parking lot of the Windsor Commons shopping center, 3175 Cape Horn Road in Windsor Township, just before 6 p.m. Dec. 9.
Officers found Lau's Honda Civic running with her in the driver seat, "unconscious and nonresponsive," court documents state.
Her then-4-month-old son was in the back seat of the Civic, where witnesses reported he'd been crying for about 20 minutes, according to police.
The witnesses told officers there were no bottles in the boy's diaper bag, so they were unable to feed the crying baby, documents state.
After Lau regained consciousness, she admitted to a paramedic that she had snorted heroin, documents state.
Police searched her car and found a straw and a small baggie, both with white residue on them, as well as Lau's iPhone, which also had white residue on it. Deputy prosecutor Justin Roberts said the residue tested positive for fentanyl; he was unsure whether it was mixed with heroin.
Eight days till relapse: After graduating from drug court, Lau was able to stay sober for little more than a week.
"She completed the York County drug-treatment program eight days before this happened," Roberts said. "We had serious concerns about that. It was very frustrating that she relapsed so quickly."
Because of that, the prosecution had asked that Lau either be sentenced to state prison or complete a state-run intermediate punishment program that's like York County's but stricter, according to Roberts.
Judge Cook basically split the difference, imposing a shorter sentence than the prosecution requested but a longer sentence than the defense has asked for, Roberts said.
"I think it's a fair resolution, and I'm hopeful that this was the moment for her to step up and turn her life around, as attorney Kearney has said," Roberts said. "Hopefully she'll stay clean, stay sober and be a loving mother to her child, as she says she wants to be."
Lau's baby initially was turned over to the custody of his grandmother, police have said. Roberts said it's his understanding Lau has regained custody of her child.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.