Law Enforcement Weighs in on Slowing the Epidemic by Filing Homicide Charges in Opioid Deaths

(WBRE/WYOU-TV) Can the opioid epidemic sweeping our nation be slowed down by going after those who supply the drugs to people who die from overdoses? Some say yes. Others are not so sure..

In Luzerne County this year  homicide charges have been filed in connection with three overdose deaths and three others may soon see homicide counts. And in Lackawanna County -- homicide charges were filed in three overdose deaths.

  Our lead I- Team Reporter Andy Mehalshick talked with local prosecutors today about the fight against Opioids. 

The prosecutors tell me that the sheer numbers of overdose deaths makes it an almost impossible task..140 in Luzerne County this year alone.but they insist the have to try to do something to stop the deaths of so many people across the region...

 

 "Your best witness usually unfortunately is deceased." said Lackawanna County D.A. Shane Scanlon.

And that fact alone presents a daunting challenge to prosecutors who are considering filing homicide charges in connection with opioid overdose deaths..

 "Drug use is a crime that people hide. So it's not like your typical loss of life where maybe a car crash other motorist are around. Or a shooting in a bar where there are other patrons."   noted D.A. Scanlon

And another challenge..connecting the dots from the source of the drug and did that drug really kill the person? The costs to prove the connections are simply too high for most area counties.

 "There's an incredible cost now if you truly are going to investigate each and every overdose as a homicide that is unbelievable resources." added D.A. Scanlon.

 "I think it's a very difficult case to prove." Attorney Joe D'Andrea- has been a defense attorney for 35 years. He says he understands the motivation to prosecute the suppliers of the opioids..however, he insists that history teaches us lessons.

 "I think that super prosecution isn't the answer. Look back in the 80's during the Reagan administration when sentencing guidelines were changed and it was just say no to drugs. It really didn't work." noted D'Andrea.

D'Andrea as well as some prosecutors support drug treatment court and drug counseling..they insist that putting effort and resources into preventing drug abuse will be more effective in saving lives.

  Some counties -- such as Luzerne County -- provide specialized training to police officers, so they can make an early assessment as to whether homicide charges are a possibility in an opioid overdose death.


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