Drug Policy

Death by Drug War

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Washington State has a law allowing prosecutors to impose a special homicide charge on people who supply drugs to overdose victims. The problem is that the law itself may be causing more overdose deaths.

The state of Washington's position is clear: If someone calls 911 when a friend is overdosing, not only does the witness risk charges for possessing or selling drugs (which 911 callers in these situations have feared since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act), but he or she could be charged with homicide, too. The end result? Overdose victims—who might survive with prompt medical care—may be abandoned and left to die.

"It goes in the wrong direction and cuts against overdose prevention, overdose reporting, and taking someone to the hospital," says defense attorney Hiatt. "If I give you the drugs, I'll be less likely to take you to the hospital."

When you think about how the law would be applied, it's far more likely to catch teens and college kids who share illicit drugs with friends making just such a decision than it is to catch any major drug dealer. I doubt many people overdose with their dealers, or leave behind strong evidence of where they obtained their drugs. But it's pretty likely that young people would share drugs among friends, then worry about what to do when one of them ingests too much. This law will make them less likely to get emergency medical care. Which means it's likely to cause more deaths than it prevents.

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  1. Yeah, but that’s okay ’cause the deaths are just druggies anyway so who cares?

    CB
    /sarcasm

  2. The state of Washington’s position is clear: If someone calls 911 when a friend is overdosing, not only does the witness risk charges for possessing or selling drugs (which 911 callers in these situations have feared since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act)

    Seems to me like the CSA has been around longer than 911. Is that not so?

  3. Unfortunately, CB may be right. This law is causing more druggies to die, which could very well be the intention of the law, at least to some of its supporters.

  4. Exhibit XXXXXYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEMMMMMBBBBBBB3

    that the war on drugs is the war on young people.

    You have to, you see. It’s for the children.

  5. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say they actually want junkies to die, but they plainly consider the chance to charge a dealer with homicide to outweigh the additional overdose deaths.

  6. I should be outraged, shocked, or incredulous that this sort of legislation gets passed and then supportted by law enforcement.

    It’s telling that I’m not any of the above this morning, just saddened.

  7. They’re just drug users. It’s not like they’re human beings.

  8. This law will make them less likely to get emergency medical care. Which means it’s likely to cause more deaths than it prevents.

    911 operator: “How can I help you?

    Caller: “My friend is overdosing.”

    911 operator: “SWAT will be right there.”

  9. So, if you give LSD to your pal, and he goes Syd Barret psycho, can you collect a portion of his disability? Or what if drugs lead to a NY Times best-selling book, do you get a cut of the profits?

  10. This has a similar effect in DUI laws, too. I have, a few times, come across a very drunk person who has driven off the road and may have a minor head wound (or more that you can’t see). When I asked if they wanted me to call an ambulance, they of course said no and I drove them home instead. I have no idea if their wounds were serious, but they could have been.

    But hey, they’re drunk drivers who are worse than drug dealers and deserve anything they get.

  11. What BS.

    I would suspect that they would still have to prove you sold them the drugs to convict you of that special homicide charge. I doubt “but he made the 911 call” would be enough.

  12. Which means it’s likely to cause more deaths than it prevents.

    In other words, it’s the War on Drugs.

  13. I would suspect that they would still have to prove you sold them the drugs to convict you of that special homicide charge. I doubt “but he made the 911 call” would be enough.

    Maybe not, but the testimony of the guy whose life you saved probably would be. Dead men tell no tales, so why take a chance.

  14. Now if there were only a drug that didn’t cause overdoses….

  15. Which means it’s likely to cause more deaths than it prevents.

    It’s almost certain that drugs, instead of bad laws, will be blamed in the press and by lawmakers, which will of course illustrate an urgent need for new and even more punitive drug laws.

  16. Wow. Is it vicious to hope that one of the children of the legislators who voted for this dies of (legal drug) alcohol poisoning?

    It probably is. And they wouldn’t learn a f*cking thing anyway.

  17. Episiarch,

    Drunk drivers actually put unwilling people’s lives at risk, so they indeed ARE worse than drug dealers. I’m not saying they “deserve whatever they get”, but I’m regularly appalled by the Reasonoid habit of acting as if drunk driving is a victimless crime.

  18. This law is not designed to bust dealers. It’s designed to scare kids with the threat of a murder conviction if one of their friends dies while using, in the hopes that said threat will prevent the from using at all. Of course, we all know that it won’t work, and the only results will be more dead, more people serving sentences for “murder”, and an big leverage card for DAs to use to force people to plea and give evidence.

  19. but I’m regularly appalled by the Reasonoid habit of acting as if drunk driving is a victimless crime

    It is a victimless crime unless you actually hit somebody else. I’m regularly appalled by the fact that some people want to convict drunk drivers for murder even if they don’t hit anyone.

  20. but I’m regularly appalled by the Reasonoid habit of acting as if drunk driving is a victimless crime.

    I don’t think that many people here have seriously claimed that drunk driving shouldn’t be a crime. There are many different opinions of what constitutes drunk driving, and many arguments to be made against the steps(spot checks, forced blood samples, arresting people, presumption of guilt, etc.) that are taken to “prevent” drunk driving. That’s not the same thing as trivializing the issue.

  21. My view on drunk driving is simple: if you actually have a wreck and are also found to be over the legal limit, you get a really fucking stiff penalty.

    If you’re over the legal limit and don’t hit anyone, we leave you the hell alone.

  22. arresting people in bars

  23. Jim Bob’s got it exactly right. They’ll see that drug overdose deaths are up, and this will be justify “tougher” enforcement. Maybe a “Friends don’t let friends get high… or we charge them with murder” campaign.

  24. In other words, it’s the War on Drugs.

    In other words, it’s the War on Drugs Sanity/Minorities/Youth/Civil Rights/Sick People.
    Pick one.

  25. Probably mandatory snitching laws next.

    If you ever even SUSPECTED someone was using drugs and didn’t report it you’ll be a criminal.

    Just like they do with child abuse now. You are REQUIRED to report it if you “have reason to believe” it is occurring. If you don’t report it you are a criminal and go to jail.

  26. It is a victimless crime unless you actually hit somebody else.

    I take it you also think spinning around firing a machine gun in a crowded shopping mall is OK as long as no one gets hit.

  27. I take it you also think spinning around firing a machine gun in a crowded shopping mall is OK as long as no one gets hit.

    You MADD types should get new canards, this one is getting old.

    Driving drunk can be dangerous. However, if you are plastered and know it, so you drive 25 miles per hour on back roads, you’re relatively safe. If you go 100, you aren’t. See how this isn’t the same as opening fire in the mall?

  28. “but I’m regularly appalled by the Reasonoid habit of acting as if drunk driving is a victimless crime” – crimethink

    Of course it’s a victimless crime there isn’tvictim unless there is an accident, so unless a hypothetical person who might be injured or hurt is a victim. What planet did you roll out of?

    Drunk driving is bad, but every time I hear the Over the Limit Under Arrest commericals (which happen to be on about every 4 minutes) it makes me want to barf. It is not illegal to drink and drive, it’s illegal to be drunk driving. Unfortunately a misguided group of Mothers (albeit they aren’t all mother’s anymore, nor run by mother’s) has severely killed the 4th Amendment and made a number (0.08) the per se law, which presumes you are guilty of impairment at number. Thereby making millions of people criminals without hurting anyone. Just on the risk that they might. Well I’m here to tell you, you are more likely to get killed in a car accident with a sober distracted driver, than from someone who drinks and drives.

    It’s people like you crimethink that believe the hype without researching the topic.

  29. “””I take it you also think spinning around firing a machine gun in a crowded shopping mall is OK as long as no one gets hit.”””

    I don’t believe the analogy holds. Firing a automatic weapon into a crowded shopping mall is nothing like driving drunk. But if you did, and didn’t hit anyone, wouldn’t that be victimless crime too? Not saying it’s ok to shoot in a mall, but who did you hurt?

    If you did hurt someone, then it’s a different story. I doubt anyone here would support the drunk drive who hurts or kills someone else. If a drunk driver crashes into a tree and dies, well, that’s on them.

  30. Err, I’m not a MADD type. Those people go much further than opposing drunk driving.

    I’m not concerned with how relatively safe the drunk driver himself is…if he wants to get himself killed, that’s his business. My concern is for the other people who might be on those back roads.

    Firing a machine gun randomly into what’s probably an empty forest isn’t as dangerous as doing it in a shopping mall, but it’s still reckless endangerment.

  31. I take it you also think spinning around firing a machine gun in a crowded shopping mall is OK as long as no one gets hit. – crimethink

    Episiarch – right on, it’s amazing the lack of a rebuttle other than this one. This is like comparing apples to oranges. But emotion and rhetoric is all they have. How sad.

  32. It’s nice to see the libertarian moonbat fringe is in attendance this fine morning.

    So, we should also not have laws against running red lights, weaving in between lanes, driving on the wrong side of the road, driving at night with no headlights on, etc, as long as you don’t hit anyone by doing these things.

    Also, I guess playing an alternative form of Russian roulette, where you put one bullet in the revolver, spin it, and then point it at someone else’s head isn’t a crime as long as you fire one of the empty chambers.

  33. What pisses me off is that I know some drivers who I would rather have driving on the roads after a few drinks than some people who drive sober on the roads. It’s a misguided system in that people who are just BAD drivers get licenses anyway, and yet don’t even get pulled over for behaviors that people who are under the influence of alcohol get severely punished for.

    Police: Excuse me ma’am, but you were swerving and applying your brakes randomly back there. Are you drunk?
    Ma’am: No officer
    *Police gives the woman a breathalyzer*
    Police: OK then, you came in at 0.0, so you’re good to go about putting other people in danger again.
    Ma’am: Thank you officer for doing your job to protect us from those drunkards!

  34. It’s not a crime when you have no intention to hurt anyone else. If you crash and kill someone because you have an epileptic seizure while driving, should you go to jail?

    People like you disgust me. Not only do you support arresting people based on criteria that varies from person to person, but you want to do it to people that have no intention of hurting someone (or themselves). Your logic is the same as the drug warriors: some people can’t do it responsibly, so ban it for everyone.

    If you want cops to force weaving drunk drivers to stop driving and to take them home or to the drunk tank, cool. Arrest them for not actually doing anything to anyone yet? Not cool.

  35. Well I’m here to tell you, you are more likely to get killed in a car accident with a sober distracted driver, than from someone who drinks and drives.

    Since you’ve obviously researched the topic, I suppose you have a link to back that extraordinary claim up. Mind sharing it with the rest of the class?

    I’m pretty skeptical that a person talking on their cell phone drives more dangerously than a drunk person.

  36. Reinmoose,

    People who drive erratically while sober should also be ticketed for reckless driving. Just because cops tend to excuse other types of dangerous driving does not mean that drunk driving is OK.

    Episiarch,

    I’m sure people who run red lights, drive on the wrong side of the road, constantly tailgate, etc, don’t intend to hurt anyone either. Most people who do these things are just in a hurry or something. Do you think those driving behaviors should be allowed?

  37. Do you think those driving behaviors should be allowed?

    Do you think people should be sent to jail for them? Because you sure support it for drunk driving. You are drawing the parallel between them, yet you only support tickets for one but jail for the other. Why?

  38. If the cops find you driving erratically and you are under the influence/using a cell phone/texting will driving/whatever you should get a worse penalty than if you weren’t doing those things and driving erratically. It should be an offense, but one added onto something else rather than a crime in itself.

  39. My point isn’t about relative punishments here. I’m pretty sure a DUI doesn’t land you in jail anyway until you’ve had a few of them.

    So, have you come around to the idea that potentially endangering the safety of others can be a crime even if those others are not actually harmed?

  40. A person who drives erratically while drunk or talking on a phone may be a good driver under other circumstances. But if you drive erratically while NOT distracted, you shouldn’t be allowed to drive.

  41. So, have you come around to the idea that potentially endangering the safety of others can be a crime even if those others are not actually harmed?

    Nope. Have you come around to the idea that putting people in jail for driving badly, whatever the cause, is a nasty approach to the issue?

  42. But if you drive erratically while NOT distracted, you shouldn’t be allowed to drive.

    Wow, quite the authoritarian streak. Seeing as most people in this country need to drive to live their lives, that’s particularly nasty.

  43. TrickyVic | January 3, 2008, 9:51am | #

    What BS.

    I would suspect that they would still have to prove you sold them the drugs to convict you of that special homicide charge. I doubt “but he made the 911 call” would be enough.

    Probably not, but the kid in the room with a friend OD’ing is more likely to be thinking “If he dies and I’m caught with him, they’re gonna charge me, so I gotta get outta here.”

    By raising the bet, they’ve made it more likely that the ones around will cut and run.

  44. In some state(s) I think it is a crime to drive sober with an intoxicated minor in their car. … So do you drive your intoxicated friend home or just let them drive themselves?

  45. One of the worst thing about the DUI law is that (to my knowledge) it makes no provisions for how intoxicated someone is.

    A lot of the repeat offenders drive at .02% or higher – they are seriously wasted, and a real threat to anyone else on the road. Someone who had a few beers, and is at .01% is nowhere near the same threat. Treating these two people in a similar manner is ludicrous.

    But graduated punishment goes against the zero tolerance idiocy MADD has been pushing for years.

  46. People who drive erratically while sober should also be ticketed for reckless driving. Just because cops tend to excuse other types of dangerous driving does not mean that drunk driving is OK.

    Didn’t say it was Ok. I’m just pointing out a problem I see in how the system works. I’m personally for privatized roads whereby the road owners would have authority to decide how people drive on their roads and who drives on them. But as long as I have no choice as to who I share the road with (being that all roads are regulated by the same authority, I can’t avoid some roads and choose others based on who drives on them), it upsets me that horrible, horrible drivers don’t get ticketed for regularly holding up traffic, stopping randomly in the left lane of a highway, and other really dangerous things.

  47. Duh, the Libertarian answer to this debate about DUI laws and punishments is so simple.

    Privatize the roads and let the market decide what combinations of rules/punishments drivers feel safest driving under.

  48. re: DUI: Whoever owns the road should make the rules. Consequently all who use them will have approved the rules, and any punishments for breaking them.

  49. But graduated punishment goes against the zero tolerance idiocy MADD has been pushing for years.

    Their position is “Drunk driving is drunk driving. Hang ’em all!” This is like saying “Assault is assault, lock ’em all up!”
    With that type of unnuanced* reasoning, “He shoved me” becomes the equivalent of “He fucked me up and broke six bones in my face.”

    *IMHO, this should be a word.

  50. In a perfect world, the roads would be privatized.

    Unfortunately, there’s been no system found that makes this workable. As nice as it sounds, I really don’t want to be stopping to pay a toll every time I turn onto another road.

  51. I’m not advocating zero tolerance. Quit arguing with the crimethink in your head.

    I do think it would be good to have a more sophisticated test for intoxication than raw BAC.

  52. Wow, quite the authoritarian streak. Seeing as most people in this country need to drive to live their lives, that’s particularly nasty.

    Keep in mind, of course, we’re talking about an incompetent driver who can’t help but drive erratically. What about the rights of the other people on the road whose own lives are put in danger by an incompetent driver?

  53. unsafe or not, it’s still kind of a dickmove to be rattling around in ye oldesmobile while tanked. (and by “kind of a dickmove” i mean “total fucking dickmove”)

    but i live in a place where i don’t have to drive so it’s just a matter of dodging insane people in cars (or insane hacidic jews in minivans, as is often the case where i live) when i cross the street.

  54. A lot of the repeat offenders drive at .02% or higher – they are seriously wasted, and a real threat to anyone else on the road. Someone who had a few beers, and is at .01% is nowhere near the same threat. Treating these two people in a similar manner is ludicrous.

    I’m assuming you mean .20% and .10%, not .02% and .01% (which are both below the legal limit in most states). I think NYS has such a graduated system, but I’m not sure. Yes, that does make sense.

  55. *IMHO, [unnuanced] should be a word

    It’s a perfectly cromulent word.

    I’m assuming you mean .20% and .10%

    Yes, I always get that wrong.

  56. One of the problem that I have with the laws is that they’re zero tolerance already but people don’t really know it. .08 in the limit in CT (and most places, I think), but having a BAC lower than that(even a 0.0) just gets you a different ticket and for practical purposes, smeared as an alcoholic(complete with mandatory counseling) who regularly drives completely hammered.

    The goal doesn’t to keep the really dangerous guy off the road as it to drive up the total tickets, cause insurance rates to rise, and prevent drinking altogether. Much like making giving drugs to person who ODs tantamount to homicide is intended make people afraid to use drugs, our DUI laws are meant to make people afraid to have a single drink. If they were really about preventing deaths, why would police regularly exempt their coworkers from these tickets?

  57. If they were really about preventing deaths, why would police regularly exempt their coworkers from these tickets?

    The same reason police exempt their coworkers from murder charges when they directly kill people, I guess.

  58. Good point.

  59. In a perfect world, the roads would be privatized.

    Unfortunately, there’s been no system found that makes this workable. As nice as it sounds, I really don’t want to be stopping to pay a toll every time I turn onto another road.

    You don?t have to if you don?t want to. Just stop driving.

    Toll roads exist. They work. People drive on them. Today.

  60. Drive distracted…Go to jail.

  61. DMD,

    It’s one thing to have a few limited-access toll highways and toll bridges, as we have today. Quite another to have every local street be a toll road! Driving would be a nightmare.

  62. When the neural chips are implanted into your skulls…. all your thoughts are belong to us.

    We will know when you are drunk or high, even if you don’t.

  63. crimethink –
    what about systems like ezpass? I hear in Florida and NJ you don’t even need to go through a booth. Why not have censors in the road and people who want to drive on your road just get a censor for their car?

    It’s really not that hard to imagine.

  64. I’m pretty sure a DUI doesn’t land you in jail anyway until you’ve had a few of them.

    Crimethink, I’m more or less on your side on the DUI thing — although I think jail is a ridiculous penalty for someone, say, who had a couple beers and got behind the wheel.
    However, I got a DUI in the state of Wyoming in 2000 (I’m from Montana, just passing through) and blew a 0.12.
    I served seven fucking days in the Crook County jail for that shit.
    Seven fucking goddamn fucking motherfucking shit-ball days.
    First offense.

  65. Jerry,
    “But emotion and rhetoric is all they have. How sad.”

    just wait until that jerk gets his asshole cannon out!

  66. “But it’s pretty likely that young people would share drugs among friends, then worry about what to do when one of them ingests too much. This law will make them less likely to get emergency medical care. Which means it’s likely to cause more deaths than it prevents. ”

    In a Libertarian world, cutting risk is not a governmental task.

  67. Little late on this I know, but here’s a solution to the “automatic weapon in the mall” question. The victim is the mall owner who has to pay to repair all the bullet holes.

    Reinmoose:
    Interesting idea but it would be a real headache with multiple companies making different sensors each with their own thing to stick to your windsheild. Though I guess it could somehow be set up similar to credit card machines which can process more than one companies card.

  68. Trip,

    I don’t think the property damage is what I was after. If you insist, consider a person who invites 100 people to his house for a party, and then stands in the front of the room and randomly sprays machine gun fire into the crowd.

    Assuming he doesn’t hit anyone, the only damage will be to his own property. Do you think this should be legal?

  69. In addition to the difficulties Trip mentions, you also wouldn’t really have much competition due to the extremely high market entry costs.

    If Company A owns I-90 between Buffalo and Rochester, for instance, they can get away with a lot of stuff before a competitor would find it profitable to build another limited access, high speed highway between those two cities. It would be like having a market in electricity where each company had to install its own wires to each of its customers’ locations. It would be an uncompetitive mess.

  70. So, we should also not have laws against running red lights, weaving in between lanes, driving on the wrong side of the road, driving at night with no headlights on, etc, as long as you don’t hit anyone by doing these things.

    Well that would be Egypt. Minus the “as long as you don’t hit anyone part.

  71. kwais,

    Heh. I wonder if Ali will come to defend his homeland from your slanders…

  72. There is nothing prohibitively expensive about building roads. Lots of industries rely on purchasing things that cost a lot of money. There is still plenty of competition in these areas. I?d bet you?d get quite a long and well built road for the cost of an A380 or 747 airliner, for instance.

  73. Ah, yes. You are talking out of your ass.

    A private road company will have to pay for

    – the property on which to build the road (without using ED)
    – the construction of the road itself
    – maintenance of the road, which is NOT cheap
    – insurance for liability claims by people injured or killed on the road

    It would be much, much more expensive than an airplane.

  74. kwais,

    Heh. I wonder if Ali will come to defend his homeland from your slanders…

    I really don’t think he would say that what I said was untrue. I don’t think he could possible say that. I can walk outside with my camera and tape all of that happening right now.

    I don’t think there are accident stats here. If there were I think it would blow your mind.

  75. “””By raising the bet, they’ve made it more likely that the ones around will cut and run.””

    Aresen, I agree. I will also add the time and money required to fight the charge. The inability to prove the crime does not always prevent them from filing charges. I think most of the time prosecutors follows the let the jury decide if the evidence is enough concept.

    Crimethink, I don’t believe anyone here is really arguing that drunk driving is ok. I think it’s the level of danger that up for debate. Few things are more dangerous than two cars coming within feet of each other with a combined speed of over 110 MPH. Which is what we do when driving down a two lane highway. Have one, two, maybe three drinks, depending on your tolerance, may not affect you to the point where you are as dangerous as someone who looking for the item that fell into the floorboard.

    I don’t fall for the buzzed driving is drunk driving, nor would most the people on H&R. If buzzed driving is drunk driving, they would just call it drunk driving.

  76. On the private roads subject, roads break down into three rough categories:

    1) Local neighborhood roads – your subdivision or industrial area.
    2) City arterials connecting the local neighborhood roads to each other and to the
    3) Major intercity routes. (I’ll call them “highways” for shorthand here.)

    Under a private system, the local neighborhood roads would be built as part of the subdivision, with the property owners being responsible for the costs (and having the right to control access.)

    The highways would be toll roads or, possibly, “sponsored” by oil companies who would pay for exclusive rights to sell gas along the road. The owners would also likely sell the rights to put up billboards and other advertising (sorry, Lady Bird). As crimethink notes, entry costs would be high, which would restrict competition. However, prices would be constrained by the ability to substitute (it is already cheaper to fly than drive in some cases) and the minimax point for the return to the owner.

    The real problem is the arterial roads connecting the whole system. I cannot think of a likely scenario for financing and operating the arterial roads on a for-profit basis.

  77. Well the deal is that we already pay for the roads. User fees are far more fair and do a better job of reflecting actual cost of activities.

  78. An airline operator has to pay for all these things as well. Purchasing, maintaining etc. Somehow that doesn?t seem to stop them. And they have several airplanes, not just one.

    Regarding insurance claims both the airlines and road operators can theoretically demand that their customers do not make such claims, as a condition of using the service. Whether they actually would is another matter, but they have the option.

    You realize that you are arguing that roads are inherently inefficient? Roads are ridiculously expensive and noone is willing to pay the price is in effect what you claim.

    Then, may I ask, should we have roads? Why bother with such a crappy, expensive, inefficient transport system? If what you are saying is correct, government is effectively wasting our taxes on a transport system that doesn?t give us our moneys worth. Why not spend the money on something that does instead?

    I am sure that there are parts of todays tax-financed road system that have no chance in hell of surviving in a market-based system. That is not a problem. Whoever needs to get to these parts are just going to have to use other means of transport.

  79. “”””Under a private system, the local neighborhood roads would be built as part of the subdivision, with the property owners being responsible for the costs (and having the right to control access.)”””

    Yeah, if Home Owners Associations are any example, one would have a hard time understanding the various rules about who can drive down what road. Red cars can’t drive down this street but you can use the street over there, but they don’t allow anyone down that road with the new “I was busted for DUI” license plates.

    A potential legal nightmare and ripe for nannyism.

  80. Big Brother could help pay for private road. Have cameras mounted every so many feet that reads your license plate and records how many miles you drive on that road. The private road owner could deduct the amount from your bank. That could be applied on all roads. Many cities already have cameras at every intersection.

  81. Teen drug use is a common problem in countries. I think is more important external cure heart than the legal regulation to punish.

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