Prosecutors treat opioid overdoses as homicides, snagging friends, relatives

Law enforcement is conducting a nationwide push to investigate overdose deaths as homicides and seek tough prison sentences against drug dealers and others deemed responsible. It is an aggressive tactic law-enforcement officials say they are using in a desperate attempt to stanch the rising tide of overdose deaths. Nationally, some 64,000 Americans died from overdoses last year, up 86% from 2006, according to CDC. A newly created heroin task force in Hamilton County, OH, has investigated hundreds of deaths in the past 2 years, resulting in a dozen involuntary manslaughter indictments in state court and 13 federal indictments for distribution of controlled substances resulting in death. "The deaths—that’s why. All the people dying," Cmdr. Thomas Fallon, who leads the Hamilton County task force, says of the prosecution push. "Even in the cocaine and crack days, people didn't die like this." At least 86 people nationwide received federal prison sentences last year for distributing drugs resulting in death or serious injury, up 16% from 2012, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. An analysis of news reports found 1,200 mentions nationally about drug-death prosecutions in 2016, three times the number in 2011, according to a recent report by the Drug Policy Alliance. Wall Street Journal (12/18/17) Walker, Joseph

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