HARRISBURG – District attorneys would be able to hold drug dealers more accountable for the damages they cause under legislation approved by the Senate today, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).
Senate Bill 662 would strengthen penalties for the delivery or distribution of an illicit drug that results in serious bodily injury to the user, such as a permanent disfigurement or the loss or impairment of a body part or organ.
Pennsylvania currently lacks a statute pertaining to serious bodily injury resulting from an overdose. For that reason, district attorneys often refer these cases to federal prosecutors who can seek tougher penalties under federal law.
The added caseload on the United States Attorney’s Office places a severe strain on federal courts and takes away the ability of local prosecutors to pursue convictions in their home jurisdictions.
“We have seen a troubling trend of drug dealers adding chemicals and other substances to their product in order to make it more potent and effective, but this process frequently leads to serious injuries and deaths,” Bartolotta said. “We need to explore every avenue to fight back against the heroin and opioid addiction crisis, especially when it comes to punishing people who are inflicting this pain on individuals and families for personal gain.”
In addition to creating the new statute, Bartolotta’s bill would require the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to create sentencing enhancement guidelines so judges have the ability to increase punishments when appropriate.
The bill was developed based on input gathered from a panel of local district attorneys who testified during a public hearing hosted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania in Beaver County last year.
The legislation was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
CONTACT: Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463