HARRISBURG – District attorneys would be able to hold drug dealers more accountable for the damages they cause under legislation approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).
Senate Bill 93 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. The absence of that statute often forces district attorneys to refer these cases to federal prosecutors who can seek tougher penalties under federal law.
The added caseload on the U.S. 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.
“The heroin and opioid epidemic has destroyed too many promising lives and left countless others with the scars of addiction,” Bartolotta said.
“As we continue to explore solutions to this public health crisis, we need to ensure the people who are inflicting this pain on our communities suffer the consequences of their crimes.”
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 full Senate for consideration.