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Dealers now being charged in drug overdose deaths

  1. Guttz
    TOMS RIVER, N.J. - With the number of heroin overdoses skyrocketing nationwide, a growing number of law enforcement agencies are dusting off strict, rarely used drug laws, changing investigatory techniques and relying on technology to prosecute drug dealers for causing overdose deaths.

    The aggressive change in tactics comes as more people turn to heroin because of crackdowns on powerful prescription opiate painkillers that make them more expensive and inaccessible. The popular prescription drug OxyContin has also been reformulated to make it difficult to crush and snort, making it less desirable on the street, law enforcement officials said.

    Nationwide, the number of people who said they have used heroin in the past year skyrocketed by 66 percent between 2007 and 2011, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The number of people who died of overdoses and had heroin present in their system jumped 55 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Rather than going after lower-level users of heroin, prosecutors are looking to take out dealers and members of the supply chain by connecting them and the drugs they sold to overdose deaths and charging them with laws that carry stiff penalties.

    "We're going to be ruthless," said prosecutor Joseph Coronato of Ocean County, N.J., where 75 overdose deaths have occurred this year. "We're looking for long-term prison sentences."

    Coronato and other New Jersey prosecutors are employing the state's little-used "strict liability for drug death" statute, a first-degree crime that holds dealers and producers responsible for a user's death and has a 20-year maximum sentence.

    He and other prosecutors nationwide are changing the way they investigate overdoses, which were once looked upon as accidents. Detectives are being immediately dispatched when word of an overdose comes in. Paramedics are being told to treat overdoses like crimes. And coroners are being asked to order autopsies and preserve forensic evidence, as proving that a death was caused solely by heroin can be difficult when other opiates, drugs or alcohol are present in a person's system.

    "When you go to an overdose death, treat it like a crime scene. Don't treat it like an accident," said Kerry Harvey, the U.S. attorney for eastern Kentucky. He has started prosecuting people who sold both prescription opiates and heroin under a federal law that prohibits the distribution of illicit substances and allows additional penalties for a death.

    Technology is another boon to such cases. Prosecutors said cellphones have been instrumental in helping gather enough evidence because people leave behind a trail of text messages and calls.

    "People text their dealer and say, 'Get me some horse,'" said Hennepin County, Minn., attorney Mike Freeman, using slang for heroin. "They text back and say, 'Meet me at McDonald's, I have some really good horse.' The guy is dead three hours later."

    Kathleen Bickers, an assistant U.S. attorney in Oregon, has prosecuted more than 40 cases under the federal statute. The goal, she said, is to take down as many rings on the heroin supply chain ladder as possible.

    "We don't stop at street-level dealers. We go up as many levels as we can" after a fatal overdose, Bickers said.

    Prosecutors concede such charges are often difficult to prove, and it can be hard to trace drugs back to a specific dealer. People often overdose alone, said Bergen County, N.J., prosecutor John Molinelli, and it's hard to trace the drugs "because the person who can tell you is dead," he said.

    Molinelli charged two people under the New Jersey law in June and said he plans to use it more because of changes in technology and the high number of overdoses in the county. During the first half of 2013, 58 people died of overdoses in Bergen County, the same number as for all of 2012. The laws, he said, send a message to dealers that they can face more severe charges.

    Some wonder whether the enforcement efforts are actually going to curtail drug sales. Douglas Husak, a lawyer and professor of philosophy at Rutgers University, said he doesn't think the stricter enforcement will stop people from dealing heroin.

    "Heroin distributors are not murderers, and they're not murderers when their customers die from an overdose," said Husak, who has called for decriminalizing drugs.

    In New Jersey, officials say heroin has become a scourge across the entire state, prompting Gov. Chris Christie to create a task force on heroin and other opiates. Forty-five percent of the primary drug treatment admissions in 2011 were for heroin, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

    Mariann Farino's son Raymond died of a heroin overdose in January. Coronato's office charged the man they say sold her son heroin in June.

    "Did he stick the needle in my son's arm? No. Did he sell him stuff that was crazy? Yes," she said. "Should he be held partially responsible? Yes."

    Posted: 08/11/2013
    Last Updated: 3 hours and 31 minutes ago


  1. I_MISS_160s
    It's amazing....

    Now my question is. Well my thought is that everyone who is involved in the 'war on drugs' and went on to make Drs and Pharmacies the 'criminals' should be charged with murder.

    It was predicted by many that this practice of making pain patients and their care givers the evil doers would end up bringing back Heroin with great consequences.

    I had just started this thread a couple of weeks ago talking about this very thing.....

    Opinions - Heroin making a huge comback? I predicted this!

    I also submitted a news article from my area of the earth. (New Hampshire) that shows how bad Heroin is in our area. It also shows how the media is responding to this..

    USA - 20-year ols dead from suspected Heroin overdose

    Well, thanks for the read. I am really glad others are focusing on this topic because in my opinion this is huge and it needs to be spread that our government are the ones who caused this.

    1 6 0

    The extra risk dealers now run will force the price up, making it more lucrative!
  3. AmbitiousStoner
    The article below references the term "gateway drugs". This post is not intended to veer the conversation off topic, but I found the statistics surprising and a bit scary.

    Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use by New Jersey’s Youth and Young Adults

    Established on March 20, 2012, the Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse establishment of a Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use by New Jersey's Youth and Young Adults (Task Force) is a major step toward addressing the prescription drug epidemic. The goal of the Task Force is to tackle the pressing issue of heroin and other opiate use by New Jersey's youth and young adults, which have increased dramatically over recent years.

    Acting Chairman Neil Van Ess appointed 13 Task Force members who possess unique knowledge, skills, experience and expertise related to alcoholism, drug abuse, and associated concerns, particularly as it relates to heroin and other opiate use amongst youth and young adults.

    Van Ess appointed former Governor James McGreevey as a member of the Task Force. McGreevey currently works with the Hudson County Correctional Center Integrity House Program as a counselor and has become a leading advocate in New Jersey for addiction treatment and re-entry reform.

    In November 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported deaths from prescription painkillers reached epidemic levels in the past decade. The number of overdose deaths is now greater than those from heroin and cocaine combined. According to the CDC, in 2010, about 12 million Americans (age 12 or older) reported nonmedical use of prescription painkillers in the past year.

    The use of prescription pills is becoming more prevalent among teenagers and is leading to heroin addiction, according to several experts who testified before the State Commission of Investigation in June 2011. Law enforcement experts testified prescription pills are easily accessible to teenagers, and a "gateway drug" to heroin.

    In New Jersey, addiction treatment admissions for opiates other than heroin for New Jersey's youth and young adults (25 years old and younger) represented nearly half (46 percent, 3304 admissions) of all other opiate use admissions in 2010 and jumped a staggering 1,145 admissions from 2009. These admissions are for non-prescription use of methadone, codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, meperidine, opium, and other drugs with morphine-like effects according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

    Heroin addiction treatment admissions for this age group has also climbed to 5,815 in 2010, more than 1,100 more than in 2005 when there were 4,675 admissions according to SAMHSA. Overall heroin admissions have declined from 2005 to 2010, from 23,377 to 21,942. However, heroin remains the primary drug of choice at admission, representing 31.6 percent of total admissions in 2010.

    To date, New Jersey has taken important strides in combating this epidemic most recently with the launch of a Prescription Monitoring Program by the Division of Consumer Affairs in January 2012. The PMP and other policy initiatives by the state to address this issue are to be commended. Through the Task Force, the Council will exercise its statutory authority to review and coordinate all state departments' efforts in regard to alcoholism and drug abuse so that the state's efforts with respect to heroin and other opiate use by New Jersey's youth and young adults can be coordinated in the most effective and efficient manner.

    Source: State of NJ website, Governor's Council On Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (GCADA)
  4. Großschmackhaft
    I would not call this an opinion anymore. The incompetence, dogmaticism and plain stupidity of the authorities are so astounding that no language i have command of has words in which to describe their extent.

    I am a simple fellow. Don't know a whole lot ´bout politics. But i know about some stuff, and when politicians concern themselves with the stuff i know about, it surprises me when one of them even grasps the basic concepts involved. Rationality and politics seem to be mutually exclusive concepts most of the time. It is genuinely frightening to consider what this incompetence in other political fields may be costing us and others without even being aware of it.
  5. DiabolicScheme
    so are we going to arrest employees at a car dealership when someone dies in an accident from a car they sold?

    or how about arresting gun store clerks for selling a gun that killed someone?

    I am embarrassed to live in the US, between invasion of privacy to the governments assault on the 2nd/4th amendment to incredibly stupid laws the US just isnt great anymore.
  6. upnorthhillrod
    There are enough oxys, hydros, d's, and what have you produceded to keep every adult stoned out of their gord for a better part of the foreseeable future. Thousands die every year from perscription overdoses and the farthest it ever makes it in court is a civil suit.

    They go after the head of cartels, why not the head of a giant pharma?
  7. RichInMethadonia
    Check this story out...... A man is being charged with involuntary manslaughter and possession with intent to sell and deliver fentanyl patches. After another person died while using them, they are also looking into the people who he supposedly got the fentanyl patches from and even looking into the Doctor who prescribed them.........

    Looks like they are trying to send a hardcore message, In my opinion people should not be charged with manslaughter over selling/giving somebody a drug. Where does it end? What if you didn't sell the drugs but you brought them to use with a friend and the friend was using and OD'ed? Would you than be charged with murder or manslaughter? It dosent make sense to me and seems like prisons are going to be filled up with people who did nothing wrong besides sell/give/trade drugs with other people.

    Why arent people responsible for their actions and ONLY THEIR ACTIONS anymore? It seems very unfair.

    Here's the link: http://www.wsoctv.com/news/news/local/3-arrested-stanley-county-drug-overdose-death/nZFtQ/
  8. Alien Sex Fiend
    thats unconstitutional. just because dealers don't pay taxes like big pharmas they are murderers? come on. i understand its reasonable to charge somebody with murder who sells a fake drug that kills a person. butt hat was sold by a fake dealer... i mean how can you charge a seller with someone else's overdose? you could charge any video game manufacturer or computer company or even drugsforum lol with getting people addicted to the website/product and said people are clueless enough to get off the internet and go drink some water, so they fuck up and die of dehydration being on an internet binge... Murderer!
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