We have a seen a dramatic change in recent years regarding how we treat those who suffer from a substance use disorder. More and more states are seeing that addiction is not something that is going to disappear, and it definitely cannot be treated with jail cells. Referring people to addiction treatment centers is the best thing that law enforcement officials can do when they come in contact with addicts. Locking addicts up only serves to overburden penal institutions and rarely results in addicts getting the help they desperately need, which is why the majority of drug addicts use again upon their release.
On the other hand, how drug dealers are treated is getting stiffer, especially if their drugs can be linked to overdose deaths. In Virginia, a warning was made to drug dealers, if their drugs resulted in a death they could face 20-year and above sentences, The Washington Post reports. The dealers were put on notice by U.S. Attorney Dana Boente and Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring.
“We hope that they understand that they will be prosecuted and there will be severe penalties for selling heroin when someone dies,” Boente said in an interview. “And if people sell heroin, sooner or later, someone will die from their sale.”
The stiff sentences have already been handed out. Recently, Gregory Hatt, 28, pleaded guilty to selling heroin which resulted in a death. If Hatt had not plead out and fought the charge and lost, he was looking at a 20-year minimum sentence. In 2014, a federal judge in Alexandria, VA, sentenced a dealer to 30 years for selling heroin that was linked to three deaths, according to the article. The Supreme Court has issued guidelines restricting when such methods should be used. Drug dealers that are arrested whose narcotics were not involved in a death will not face such stiff penalties.
“If we can charge that within the requirements of the law, we’re going to, in appropriate cases, charge that case, and we’re going to be aggressive in those investigations,” Boente said.