General Assembly fails to hold heroin dealers, traffickers accountable

lawFor the second year in a row, the General Assembly will fail to pass a needed law to hold heroin dealers and traffickers and other drug dealers accountable when their deadly drugs result in a fatal overdose.

It was announced this morning that the bill, which Attorney General Herring, Del. Scott Lingamfelter and other legislators, Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorneys, and the law enforcement community have pushed for two years, will be left in the Senate Finance Committee.

Attorney General Herring has had to partner with the U.S. Attorney to prosecute these fatal overdoses at the federal level because Virginia case law makes it practically impossible to hold a dealer or trafficker accountable at the state level for a death caused by their drugs.

“Virginians are losing their lives every day to cheap, potent heroin and tools to hold dealers and traffickers accountable are a critical part of addressing this problem, along with education, prevention, and treatment,” said Attorney General Herring. “Too often the parents of young people who have died from an overdose feel like no one really cares that their child was taken from them and they’re resigned to the fact that the dealer will never really face consequences for what they’ve done. We can’t turn a blind eye to dangerous criminals who are profiting off addiction.

“We’ve been able to help prosecute a number of these cases at the federal level, but the fact is our local Commonwealth’s Attorneys need a proper state level tool to hold dealers and traffickers accountable when their drugs kill a Virginian. I’m really disappointed by the lack of urgency and action on this, but there’s still some time left in the session and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to find a way forward.”

The bill passed the House of Delegates 94-5 and the Senate Courts of Justice Committee 15-0  before being left in the Senate Finance committee, even though the Senate passed a nearly identical bill last year. This bill is the only piece of heroin and prescription opioid overdose legislation proposed by Attorney General Herring that has yet to pass.

In 2015 the General Assembly passed his bills to expand the use of naloxone by first responders and make the drug available without a prescription, to create a “good Samaritan” provision to encourage the reporting of overdoses in progress, and to expand access to the Prescription Monitoring Program.

Attorney General Herring has made combating the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic a top priority, attacking the problem with a multifaceted approach that includes enforcement, legislation, education and prevention. In the last year and a half, Attorney General Herring and his team have worked with local and federal partners to prosecute more than 28 cases against dealers and traffickers involving more than 95 kilograms of heroin, or approximately 238,500 daily doses, with an estimated street value of more than $19 million.

His office has also created a documentary called “Heroin: The Hardest Hit” which features Virginians sharing their own stories of addiction, overdose, and recovery. It also includes stories of young people who lost their lives to a fatal heroin overdose.

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