It is no secret that heroin overdose has become an epidemic across the country. Many state lawmakers have tried to take action to combat overdose fatalities, and Maryland is no different. Recently, state legislators introduced a bill that would create a new, separate criminal offense intended to curb overdosing.
House Bill 612 was introduced at the end of January 2017 by legislators from Harford and Anne Arundel Counties. Both counties have seen significant spikes in heroin overdoses in 2016. The bill would create a new charge and penalties for individuals accused of selling heroin or fentanyl that led another person to fatally overdose. Fentanyl is a prescription opioid that people commonly mix with heroin, which increases the chances of an overdose.
The charge could be issued against a number of people who may be connected to the deadly dose of heroin and/or fentanyl, including the following:
The person who directly sold or delivered the drugs
The person who supplied the drugs to the seller or deliverer
The person who packaged or cut the drugs
Anyone else believed to be in the chain of supply of that particular batch of drugs
If convicted of this new offense, a person could face up to 30 years in prison. It is important to realize that the maximum sentence for heroin distribution under current Maryland law (without any overdose occurring) is 20 years in prison.
Immunity Clause for Medical Assistance
The law does grant immunity to individuals who render medical aid or get assistance for someone who is overdosing. For example, if a person called 911 and admitted to the EMTs that they gave the overdosing individuals heroin or fentanyl, that individual could not be prosecuted.
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