Sunday, 21 March 2010

The Drug Law that Sends You to Jail for Helping

A disturbing new trend is emerging in Australia that I thought was only happening in the US. Anyone who supplies drugs for someone or helps them inject is being jailed if that someone dies from an overdose. This is not aimed at unscrupulous criminals who sell contaminated drugs but anyone including dealers, friends or fellow drug users who physically provide the drugs. Someone overdosing using too much heroin should not be the fault of the person supplying the drugs whether they are dealers or not. They are simply handing over a product for a buyer/user/friend who will obtain the product somewhere, regardless of where it comes from. What if it’s just two friends and one of them has been elected or volunteers to pool their money and purchase the drugs for both of them? According to the courts, it doesn’t matter and prison is a certainty.

I have trouble grasping this concept because it is singling out drug users. Not long ago, the courts dealt with someone trying to sue a bar owner who served drinks to an intoxicated man just a few hours before he had a fatal car accident. This raised the issue of responsible serving of alcohol and whether bartenders had an obligation to refuse alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated. Some countries and states have made it an offence to serve intoxicated patrons but one thing is for sure, they won’t being going to prison for 10-15 years.

One reoccurring issue that also worries me is how some users are being arrested for injecting someone who has asked for their help and then overdoses. I have been in this situation dozens of times where either myself or a friend needs help injecting. Not once has it ever entered my mind that you could be arrested if one of us overdosed and died. What sort of bizarre system punishes you for helping a fellow human to do something safely? Something they are going to attempt regardless of whether you help or not? If you have seen the movie, Requiem For A Dream, you will understand what can happen to your arm if it becomes infected from injecting. Here’s a hint ... it ain’t pleasant! Do you really just refuse a friend who needs help and risk them getting abscesses in their arm or even worse ... wasting the shot of heroin?

And lastly, today’s conspiracy theory. Are these laws designed to torment drug users? There’s very little logic involved and it only applies to drugs so someone, somewhere has made a conscious decision to write a law that can create turmoil between friends intravenously using drugs. Whatever reason was behind these laws, I cannot see one benefit. It will though increase deaths and harm, create tension between drug using friends and fuel the fear of prosecution that already prevents users from ringing an ambulance when someone overdoses.


Woman Jailed Over Fatal Heroin Sale
By ACT court reporter Katherine Pohl
Posted March 2010

A 32-year-old Canberra woman who sold a fatal dose of heroin to another user has been sentenced to six months in jail.

Melissa Anne Bennett from Rivett pleaded guilty to trafficking a controlled drug.

She sold nearly 2 grams of heroin to a woman in May 2008.

They injected half a gram together before the woman left.

The buyer was later found dead in a Watson hotel.

The ACT Magistrates Court heard Bennett has mental health issues but she has improved in recent times.

Magistrate Beth Campbell said supplying heroin can have horrendous consequences, as seen in this case.

But she acknowledged the death of the woman had weighed on the defendant's mind.

She sentenced her to 18 months in jail but that will be suspended after she serves six months.



Mckinney Woman Sentenced To 10 Years For Heroin-Injection Death Of Best Friend
By Ed Housewright
March 2010

MCKINNEY — A woman convicted of killing her best friend by injecting her with heroin was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison.

Kristin Metz, 29, had faced a possible life term in the 2008 murder of Stevie May. The lesser sentence resulted from an agreement between prosecutors and Metz’ defense team that was approved by state District Judge Ray Wheless. No witnesses testified during the punishment phase.

As part of the deal, the defense waived the right to appeal.

"It was a fair sentence," said lead prosecutor John Lee Schomburger. "There was not any intent to kill."

Defense attorney Tom D'Amore said he also was pleased with the sentence: "It was done...to avoid the risk to our client of a greater sentence."

A Collin County jury found her guilty Friday of causing May’s death by injecting her with heroin at her request.

The verdict in the unusual trial came moments before state District Judge Ray Wheless was about to send the panel home for the weekend. When the verdict was announced, May's mother, Kathleen May, sobbed openly in the courtroom.

A few feet away, Metz, 29, appeared calm. But she broke down in tears moments later as her attorney, Scott Palmer, sought to reassure her.

"How could they do this?" she pleaded. "How do I have any faith in justice?"

The case against Metz was considered a rarity because she was charged with murdering someone who authorities acknowledge was voluntarily committing the same criminal act: possession of heroin.

Evidence at the trial shows that at the behest of May, Metz purchased heroin from a Carrollton dealer so they both could use it back at the McKinney apartment Metz shared with her husband. But when May had trouble injecting herself, Metz — her best friend — did it for her, authorities say. The 21-year-old mother died inside Metz's apartment.



Body In Troy, Ill., Cemetery Was Heroin Overdose
By Terry Hillig
March 2010

TROY, ILL. — A man found dead in a cemetery in Troy this week suffered a heroin overdose during a drug binge with a longtime friend who has been charged in the incident, police said Thursday. 

The body of Chad Q. Bell, 29, of Troy, was found Tuesday in Friedens Cemetery, along Illinois Route 162 in that community.

His friend, Michael E. Bovinett, 36, also of Troy, was arrested Wednesday night and charged Thursday with drug-induced homicide, concealment of a homicidal death and obstructing justice, officials said.

Major Jeff Connor, deputy commander of the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis, said the two men had used drugs together in the hours before Bell's death. 

According to the charges, Bovinett injected Bell with heroin, which killed him.

Prosecutors claim Bovinett concealed the death by leaving Bell's body in the cemetery, and lied to investigators about it.

Bovinett, of the 100 block of Wayland Street, was held in the Madison County Jail in Edwardsville in lieu of $1 million bail.

Connor declined to say where the men spent the hours before Bell's death, but he did say that heroin was becoming more prevalent.

"Heroin is becoming a very cheap drug, and it's easy to find," the detective said.

Bell was last seen alive about 9 p.m. Monday. Connor said it appeared he was already dead when Bovinett left the body at the cemetery.



Port Huron Woman Charged In Heroin Overdose Death
March 2010

Shelly Lynn Campbell, 35, of Port Huron has been charged with providing the heroin that led to a Port Huron man’s overdose death.

Larry Thomas Sobczak Jr., 31, was found dead Jan 30 in his Pine Street apartment. The St. Clair County Medical Examiner’s office determined he died of a heroin overdose. Investigators believe Campbell provided Sobczak with the heroin.

She was arraigned Sunday and is being held on $10,000 bond. A preliminary exam on the charge of delivery of a controlled substance causing death is set for March 9.

10 comments:

Mina said...

It's horrible. We have the same kind of law in Austria. Here, you also get a jail sentence for helping someone inject and the person dies.

And also for providing someone with the substance; like when one friend buys it and uses it together with another friend afterwards (and thus gives it to another person).

Jeffrey said...

Hi,

I have had a look at your site and appreciate your efforts. I am a psychiatrist and 16-yr opiate addict, 10 yrs clean (used to be an anesthesiologist), and have a similar calling. I teach a a local med school, have a radio show, medically direct a residential treatment program, and have a private practice in psychiatry.
We have had an epidemic of overdose deaths from heroin in Wisconsin in the US, and the legal climate is similar to yours. The recent death of a 15-y-o girl who took buprenorphine and benzos (wasn't tolerant to either) has sparked a great deal of fury in particular.
My recovery is step-based, but I've become an advocate for buprenorphine and the treatment of addiction as a MEDICAL illness; I have a number of web efforts to that end and would appreciate any publicity that you can spread my way. The forum in particular has good info about buprenorphine, and I have an e-book with many of the more common buprenorphine-related issues described in detail.
The main portal to my sites is through http://addictionremission.com. The individual sites are http://suboxforum.com and http://suboxonetalkzone.com , and the book is at http://bupeguide.com .

Drop me a note sometime-- my e-mail can be found at my practice web site, fdlpsychiatry.com .

Jeffrey T Junig MD PhD

Terry Wright said...

Howdy Mina

Yes, a disgraceful law. I thought Europe would be more rational.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Jeffrey.

Thanks for the info.
I will check out you sites over the next few days.

Gingerbread House said...

Terry, thanks for highlighting this issue. As is well known, chicken meat, for example, can be improperly handled prior to or post purchase and such mishandling can lead to food poisoning. In this way, these laws seem to be akin to someone suing a cashier at a grocery store for selling them meat from which they got lethal food poisoning. A more 'black market' analogy might be a certain relative of mine who buys tobacco under the table for their own use, because it's cheaper. I can't imagine ever sending the tobacco seller to jail if my relative were to die of lung cancer.

Aside from that, there are all sorts of social justice issues raised when our JUSTICE system is abused in this way. I suppose it depends on whether one views the justice system as a legal tool, or as a tool of justice.

Also, a previous poster mentioned something about an 'epidemic'... given the rest of this persons post, I wonder if the use of the word was well though through. I say this not as a criticism, just food for thought.

Gledwood said...

That's why I never inject anybody, even though i'm good at it. With veins as crap as mine you have to be... anyway... :-<

Anonymous said...

I have never injected myself & I call upon my trusted mates to do so for me. This law is horrible. It forgets that I am a very willing participant! My mates are simply doing me a favour. They are not holding a gun to my head!

I trust my mates & feel safe in knowing that they would call an ambulance if I was to overdose. If I was unfortunate enough to experience a fatal overdose, I would also never want my mates to feel responsible or experience punishment. My god - that is the last thing I would want!!

What a stupid stupid STUPID law!!!

Terry Wright said...

I'm glad everyone agrees that it's a useless law. Tonia( Gingerbread House) summed it up perfectly.

I am aware how many people need help sometimes with injections and to punish them is just insane.

Thanks for your comments.

rougevert said...

So are they going to charge Gary Ablett?

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/02/28/1046407751577.html

Terry Wright said...

Excellent point rougevert.

He clearly helped that girl take the drug by giving it to her. I wonder what would have happened if it was more recent? ... or is it just when syringes are involved?