Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lawmakers consider creating homicide charges for heroin dealers

State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), a member of the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, is co-sponsoring a series of legislative measures aimed at combating the heroin epidemic spreading throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide.
The legislative package seeks to build on existing state-level laws, programs and services enacted over the past few years in Albany to strengthen awareness, education, prevention and treatment efforts.
But it also takes aim at heroin traffickers and dealers.
It includes legislation (S4163) to allow law enforcement to charge a drug dealer with homicide, a class A-1 felony carrying a penalty of 15-25 years in prison, if a person dies of an overdose of heroin or other opiate-controlled substance sold by that dealer. The measure targets mid- to high- level drug suppliers who profit from heroin sales.
"Awareness and education, prevention and treatment are fundamental responses. But so are tough laws and law enforcement, especially when it comes to heroin traffickers and dealers. I agree that we can’t arrest our way out of this crisis, but we shouldn’t hesitate to throw the book at the pushers and suppliers of this deadly drug," said O’Mara.
Other pieces of legislation O’Mara is co-sponsoring, many of which have bipartisan support in the Legislature, include measures to:
- target the "heroin pipelines" existing throughout New York State (S608), including regionally where local law enforcement agencies note that much of the heroin trafficking invading area communities originates out of the city of Rochester. This legislation would establish a new felony crime of unlawfully transporting of opiate-controlled substances within the state, regardless of weight, and give law enforcement an additional tool to prosecute dealers, especially those who travel from county to county to increase their profits. The lure of higher profits incentivizes many dealers, especially from big cities like Rochester and New York City for example, to travel far distances to sell heroin at higher prices in rural and suburban areas;

- expand the crime of operating as a major trafficker (S4177) to more accurately reflect the nature of the criminal enterprises and increase successful prosecutions. The bill recognizes the low street prices of heroin by lowering the minimum required proceeds from the sale of controlled substances during a 12-month period from $75,000 to $25,000;

- facilitate the conviction of drug dealers (S100) by allowing someone to be charged with a felony crime of intent to sell if they possess 50 or more packages of a Schedule I opium derivative, or possess $300 or more worth of such drugs. Under current law, dealers can carry large quantities of the drug before triggering a felony charge of possession;

- preventing the sale of synthetic opioids (S1640) by expanding the list of controlled substances in schedules I, II, III, IV, and V to include any controlled substance which is intended for human consumption and is structurally or pharmacologically substantially similar to, or is represented as being similar to heroin, opium, or other opioid-based narcotic. This would help combat the quickly-moving world of designer drugs; and

- establish assisted outpatient treatment for substance use disorders (S631). Courts would be enabled to order assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) for an individual with a substance use disorder who, due to his or her addiction, poses a threat to him or herself or others.