Lawmakers Push for Homicide Charges in Opioid Deaths - NBC Connecticut

Lawmakers Push for Homicide Charges in Opioid Deaths

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Lawmakers Seek Harsh Penalties for Opioid Deaths

    (Published Monday, Jan. 23, 2017)

    Two state lawmakers are looking to crack down on opioid drug dealers and increase the punishment if the overdose results in death.

    The two separate bills -- proposed by Republican Rep. Kurt Vail, of Stafford, Republican Rep. Devin Carney, of Old Saybrook -- have a common denominator: to hold drug dealers responsible for homicide if a person who buys those drugs, dies from an overdose.

    "We have people in my district, many have passed away from overdoses. I want to deter people from selling people and taking advantage," Rep. Vail said.

    According to Vail's bill, he wants to "establish a new crime for homicide in the case of a drug overdose."

    "Because (dealers are) the ones bringing it into the streets. And then maybe when we get one dealer, we can get someone above them," he said.

    Rep. Carney also wants to establish a new, harsher crime.

    His bill proposes "To hold drug dealers criminally liable for the sale of drugs that result in the death of a person who purchased the drugs from the dealer."

    According to Carney, part of his motivation for the bill is having a very close family member affected by addiction.

    "Dealers are knowingly cutting drugs with fentanyl and need to be stopped," Carney said.

    The Town of Groton police chief agrees.

    "The people that we're arresting, in many cases, are using other alternates and adulterants in the heroin. They're strengthening it. They know the product they're putting out there is dangerous and in many cases lethal," Chief L.J. Fusaro said.

    Connecticut has been plagued by an opioid epidemic. Over the past few years the southeastern part of the state has seen an uptick in drug activity.

    Last year there were 20 overdoses in the Town of Groton. Six resulted in death investigations. All six involved opioids, according to Fusaro.

    He said he's in favor of looking into the two proposed bills. Currently, many cases have been handled on the federal level, because those charges have stiffer penalties for relatively similar crimes, according to Fusaro.

    Some have concerns about the proposed legislation, including Tammy de la Cruz, who co-founded Community Speaks Out, a group that supports families facing addiction.

    "Legislation like this scares me personally. The money involved in arresting, investigating and proving that an individual intended or held back what was in the drug is hard to prove," de la Cruz said in a statement. "This is a disease of the brain and needs to be treated like one. The only way to turn this around is not on the supply side but on the demand side."

    Rep. Vail is in favor of increasing available treatment for addicts.

    He said his bill is based off of a similar one proposed in New York.

    Both lawmakers say they've spoken to one another about their proposals. Both bills have been referred to the Joint Committee on Judiciary.