TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the penal law, in relation to deaths
caused by the sale of opioids
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: To deter the future sale of opioids by
increasing the penalty for the sale of an opioid if the use of such
opioid causes the death of the user.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: Section 1 establishes the name "Laree's
Law" for the legislation.
Section 2 amends subdivision 4 to section 125.20 and adds a new subdivi-
sion 5 to section 125.20 of the penal law to increase the penalty for
the deliberate sale of an opioid that results in death to manslaughter
in the first degree.
Section 3 is the effective date of the bill.
JUSTIFICATION: Heroin addiction has been an ongoing problem since the
drug was first created over 100 years ago. During the 1960s and 1970s,
heroin abuse in New York was viewed largely an urban problem, and was
gradually, though not entirely, displaced as other drugs like cocaine,
and particularly crack cocaine, became available in the 1980s.
From the 1990s to the present these drugs were, in turn, largely
displaced by prescription drugs like hydrocodone and oxycodone as the
drugs of choice, due to their availability and presumed "safety" because
they were, after all, prescribed by physicians. The general problem of
opioid addiction spread out to rural and suburban areas, becoming a
major national issue. Like many states, New York State responded to
prescription drug addiction, and the increasing numbers of overdoses and
related deaths, with the implementation an enhanced prescription drug
monitoring systems designed to eliminate the diversion and abuse of
prescription drugs. The success of New York's system, commonly known as
I-STOP (Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing), has at least in
part led to the resurgence of heroin use, due to its relatively low cost
and high availability.
Presently, the ranks of heroin users now include teenagers, and young to
middle-aged adults of all socio-economic backgrounds who are looking for
their fix now that prescription drugs are less accessible. The New York
City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene estimates that the rate of
unintentional overdoses from opioids in New York City increased by 65%
from 2005 to 2011 and, according to the Trust for America's Health, drug
overdoses throughout New York State have increased by 56% from 1999 to
2013. One of the most recent victims was of this rising epidemic was
Laree Farrell-Lincoln, who died of a heroin overdose in June of 2013,
just prior to her nineteenth birthday.
The growing problem of heroin addiction is first and foremost an issue
of public health, and should be addressed through prevention, treatment
and adequate support for the victims and their families. But with the
drug so readily available, strengthening New York State law with regard
to the sale of heroin that results in the death of the user is a crit-
ical component of a comprehensive approach to a problem that is
approaching epidemic levels.
Currently in New York, the penalty for selling drugs varies from a class
D felony for Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Fifth
Degree, to a class A-I felony for Criminal Sale of a Controlled
Substance in the First Degree, depending on the type and weight of the
drug involved.There is no additional penalty when such sales cause a
death; the extent of any additional penalty is the charge of Criminally
Negligent Homicide, a class E felony, punishable by up to four years
imprisonment. Laree's Law will increase the penalty for the deliberate
sale of an opioid that results in death to manslaughter in the first
degree, a class B felony, with a sentence of up to 25 years.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: New Bill - 2014
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None to the state.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect on the ninetieth day after it
shall have become a law.