The Ohio Opioid Epidemic
As the number of accidental overdoses continues to climb in the state of Ohio, the people selling these drugs are finding themselves at risk of more than just dealing and trafficking charges. Dealers of heroin and the even deadlier Fentanyl could potentially face charges of involuntary manslaughter. Let’s take a closer look at this devastating epidemic and the potential punishments attached.
SEEN THE NEWS LATELY?
If so, you’re probably well aware of the unfortunate opioid epidemic that’s plaguing the state of Ohio right now. Heartbreaking tales of accidental overdoses are far more frequent as the death toll continues to climb. With Dayton at the forefront, one recent report stated that nearly 400 people have died from overdoses in the past six months in Montgomery County alone. Unintentional overdoses claimed the lives of 4,149 Ohioans in 2016. That’s a 36% increase from the previous year, and that number is expected to increase significantly in 2017.
Heroin and, even more so as of late, Fentanyl (a synthetic opioid said to be 50 times stronger than heroin and morphine) are to blame for a majority of the fatalities. While Fentanyl does have a legitimate purpose in the medical world (pain relief for cancer patients, to name one), it’s extremely potent, highly addictive, and classified by the Food and Drug Administration as a Schedule II controlled substance. The DEA identifies Schedule II drugs as “…substances, or chemicals…with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.” So dangerous, in fact, that an Ohio police officer suffered a (non-fatal) accidental overdose after brushing Fentanyl off his uniform with his bare hand; coming into contact with the substance during an arrest.
Fentanyl is cheap, easy to make, and easy to mix with plenty of common street substances, even marijuana. Dealers can use it to build on their supply and widen their customer base, which explains the frequency of use, and the body count it can add to its record.
Dealers of heroin and Fentanyl have bigger problems than possession and trafficking to worry about. If someone deals to a person who later dies as a result of ingesting their product, it could lead to a number of charges, up to and including involuntary manslaughter. Earlier this year, a 33-year-old Akron man was arrested on charges of “involuntary manslaughter, corrupting another with drugs and trafficking” when police discovered two unresponsive bodies in an Akron apartment building. One survived. One did not. Cause of death? Carfentanil, a derivative of Fentanyl that is every bit as strong and dangerous as its sister substance. The man arrested was accused of selling the drug to the now deceased woman and the man who suffered a non-fatal overdose. Stories like this are on the rise as families and loved ones of those who have fallen victim (to what the Pittsburgh Post Gazette refers to as a “terrorist attack”) are seeking justice for the ones they’ve lost.
While involuntary manslaughter is a lesser charge than murder, it could still classify as a first- or third-degree felony. If it’s a first-degree felony charge, the sentence could be up to 11 years in prison or more depending on the circumstances of the case.
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