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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    June 3, 2018 at 10:57 PM

    My son passed away May 14th was in rehab in California and left rehab the night before. He was starting new job the next day. I spoke with him in the morning. I pay for his Verizon and around 11pm that night i had not heard from him. I check his phone records and saw the last call he made was at 952am and last text around 10am. I was worried texted his rehab buddies and one kid told me he hadn’t spoken to my son that day. However, i saw that his numberwas the last call my son made that day. I called him out on it and he made up some story saying he was fine and going to work at noon. Not to worry. 1am I received a call from LA coroners office and they informed me of my son’s death. I live in Nevada, had to spend the week making arrangements to get him back here and everything else. I never asked detailed questions and just assumed it was accidental OD. However, the day of his funeral I revived a call from the same kid I texted that night looking for my son, asking me if I got the police report back. I thought it was a little strange he was asking me this and asked him why. He then asked me if it showed there was another person in car with him. Here i am already in grief and he’s questioning me. He then told me that somebody was in car with my son supplied him and watch him Od and then ditch him. My mind was now racing. I asked who it was and how he knew this. He told me that the guys girlfriend told a counselor at rehab. I had to hang up and leave for my son’s funeral. Then afterwards, some of my son’s who were in rehab that drove in took me aside and told me the same story. I was shocked. It was late Friday. I had never questioned police or forensics and had to wait til Monday. Trying to shorten more details. However, my son was found in his car running with the air conditioning on. Which he never did!!! He was always low on gas. Not to mention i asked if there was paraphernalia and she told me there was. I asked her if there were needle marks on my son and she thought there was on right arm. However my son was right handed and never ever used his arms. His feet. Unfortunately i have been helping my son fight this dreaded disease for years and we were extremely close. He told me everything. In all states there is a Good Samaritan Law which protects users who call 911 and stay on scene when an OD occurs. In many states, it is manslaughter if you supply and ditch an OD. California does not go after these kids. What good is the Samaritan Law if there are no penalties if they are not followed? My son could have been saved. I’m fighting hard to make these Homicide detectives pull cameras from the location and I have given them names and phone records. Can Simone please provide me a wAy get justice. I’ll will give more details. Ty

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