When police are called to the scene of a drug overdose they can treat it as a crime scene or an accident scene. Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala wants it to be treated as a crime scene.
“Over the last year in Allegheny County, we’ve trained about 50 different police departments what they should do when they come on the scene,” Zappala said. “You have to move quickly [to gather evidence] but detectives have been trained specifically in those kinds of things.”
The shift has allowed police to track individual doses of heroin back to dealers and that can be used in prosecution. State law allows for the dealer to receive a tougher sentence if the users dies but there is no such “sentencing enhancement” if the user is revived.
A bill approved unanimously by the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee would allow for tougher penalties anytime the drug causes serious bodily harm.
“We could probably use it everyday, unfortunately,” Zappala said.
Senate Bill 662 sponsor Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington County, said the drugs on the street keep getting stronger.
“These drug dealers are doing this intentionally and it’s got to stop. And we have to have more sever penalties for these killers out there peddling poison,” Bartolotta said.
The measure does not set a specific jail term for the crime but instead calls on the state commission on sentencing to set guidelines.
Zappala said he hopes the law would be a deterrent to those considering selling drugs.
Bartolotta said she hopes to see the measure passed before the summer break, which is scheduled to begin July first, “because all of these overdoses, they just keep increasing day after day after day.”