Prosecutors Charging Drug Dealers in Heroin Overdose Deaths

A growing number of law enforcement officials around the country are prosecuting drug dealers for causing heroin overdose deaths, the Associated Press reports. Prosecutors are using laws that come with stiff penalties to target drug dealers and members of the drug supply chain, and connect them and the drugs they sell to deadly overdoses.

Many people who were addicted to prescription painkillers switched to heroin after drug companies made their products more difficult to crush and snort. Heroin is also much less expensive than pills such as oxycodone.

According to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of people who were past-year heroin users in 2011 (620,000) was higher than the number in 2007 (373,000).

“We’re going to be ruthless,” Prosecutor Joseph Coronato of Ocean County, New Jersey, told the AP. “We’re looking for long-term prison sentences.” He and other prosecutors in New Jersey are using the state’s “strict liability for drug death” statute. The law holds dealers and producers responsible for a user’s death, and comes with a 20-year maximum sentence.

Until recently, overdoses were treated by law enforcement officials as accidents, the article notes. Now, when law enforcement hears about an overdose, detectives are immediately dispatched to the scene. Paramedics are instructed to treat overdoses as crimes, and coroners are requested to order autopsies and preserve evidence. It can be difficult to prove a death was caused only by heroin if a person also used other opioids, drugs or alcohol.

Kerry Harvey, the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Kentucky, has started prosecuting people who sold prescription opioids and heroin, under a federal law banning the distribution of illegal substances. The law allows for additional penalties if a death occurs.

Officials are also using cellphones to track text messages and calls related to drug purchases.

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    January 7, 2017 at 5:53 PM

    It’s murder – period. That a street level seller does not know what he is selling is no excuse. At best it’s a gross and reckless disregard for the lives of the users and addicts who end up dying from the poison. And yes, that’s what it is, poison. Street level sellers know their customers are dying by the scores. They know many are dying from their “product” and they simply are willfully blind or don’t care. By all means, go after the manufactures, king pins and higher level peddles of the deadly mixes and poisons that are on the streets of cities and towns all over America – but don’t stop there! Put everyone on notice and cut the legs out from under the distribution network at every level. Thousands upon thousands of citizens are DYING in America because they are being sold poisoned drugs. These are people too and they matter. The callous attitude that their deaths are somehow their own fault or don’t matter has to stop! Protecting the drug dealing networks and facilitators at any level from the consequences of dealing death on others is a totally unacceptable and illogical position. It is malice to sell or distribute combinations of drugs that we know will kill the user – and kill them with that exact dose that was sold to them. It’s not some abstract possibility, it’s a certainty in many cases. And that murder! The world was dangerous enough with prescription and illegal heroine on the streets. This is so much worse. It’s a death sentence to users and addicts; why should dealers get a free pass.

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    December 27, 2016 at 1:39 AM

    Jan. 30th, 2016 I lost my brother to an overdose of heroine laced with fentanyl. He died in my bathroom sometime during the night when everyone in my home was sleeping. My brother was arrested for a D.u.i. involving heroin. When he was arrested the police beat him up, broke his phone, took hos shoes and the 400 dollars that was in his wallet. None of his things were ever returned to him or us.When my brother lost everything he had to his addiction and ended up in jail I wanted to help him in every way I could. After his release from jail he was placed on house arrest and lived with me, he was on house arrest when he overdosed. The immense pain and countless hopeless questions his death has caused me has left me like an empty shell of a human. My mother can’t cope with life anymore…and to top it all off there was no real investigation into how my brother got the drugs being on house arrest. I gave my brother all the help I could give, but the help he needed (rehab) kept calling me and rescheduling his intake for 2 months from his jail release. He was supposed to go to rehab 1 week from his release. All I feel is numb, and cold. My first friend and closest brother is now gone and I can’t cope with it. It’s been almost a year and I can’t stop thinking about when he passed. I hope the law shatters the lives of these drug dealers like the dealers have shattered my life and family with their senseless acts and love for money. THEY ARE KILLING PEOPLE AND THEY KNOW WHAT THEIR DRUGS DO! I had to take care of all my brothers final expenses, I had to face his friends and my family at his funeral. I had to watch my mother and father die inside as they watch their sons body sitting in a casket. I don’t know what to do with myself anymore. Me and my brother were very close through most of our lives. I hope that law enforcement begins to actually care and realize that drug addicted people are people too and not the scum of the earth. That those people have families that care about them, that they are loved, and that they need HELP, the right kinds of help. I pray daily for God to give my family peace. I don’t think there will be much peace in this. I feel like a huge part of me has died with my brother, and I am so scared of losing any memories I have of him and our childhood together. His life was taken by a very small dose of heroin mixed with fentanyl. His life was taken so a drug dealer can have money. I hope and pray that law enforcement and the politicians see the pain and anguish thsee drugs have caused countless families across the nation and world and begin to take it seriously.

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    December 6, 2016 at 12:20 AM

    I dont see any justice in this at all.Alot of the drug dealers out there have a disease themselves and are addicted to the same drug that there selling to support there own drug problems.Locking these people up and putting them behind bars is not the ansewer at all.Most of These individuals are good people with a horrible disease not murderers,rapicists.child molesters,or animals.There people.They need help,rehabalation,and couceling.Locking them up does nothing except destroys families.It doesen’t just destroy one life and ruins that one individuals life but it destroys a number of lives.It destroys entire families.So where is the justice in locking a person up with an addiction because i dont see it,and some of these people cant take spending ten years behind bars and end up taking there own life destroying families that way.Theres no justice being served just horrible torture and heartbreak.

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