April 20th, 2015 by Attorney Dan Carman
Fears of an HIV outbreak in northern Kentucky, similar to the epidemic in nearby southern Indiana, has caused legislators to reach a last-minute compromise on an anti-heroin bill in late March.
Senate Bill 192 was quickly signed by Gov. Steve Beshear and went into effect immediately. Supporters claim it balances tough penalties for heroin traffickers with available treatment options and a needle-exchange program for addicts.
The Rapidly Growing Problem in Scott County, Indiana
An epidemic of HIV infections traced to intravenous drug usage in southern Indiana’s Scott County caused Gov. Mike Pence to declare a public health emergency. From January through March 2015, 79 cases were traced to Scott County, Indiana, with the number expected to rise to over 100. In a typical year over the same time span, there are fewer than five cases of HIV. In every confirmed case, the cause is intravenous drug usage.
Gov. Pence’s emergency order set up a center that coordinates treatment for both HIV and substance abuse. Pence also authorized a temporary needle exchange as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an effort to stem the epidemic.
Details of Kentucky Senate Bill 192
The bill signed by Gov. Beshear provides for the following:
- Under a “Good Samaritan” provision, people who seek treatment for overdoses are shielded from prosecution for possession of drugs or paraphernalia, as long as they provide their name and address.
- Access to Naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of overdoses and reduce fatalities, is increased.
- More than $20 million each year will be allocated for treatment and other anti-drug efforts. Ten million dollars have been immediately funneled toward these efforts, along with a reduction in treatment barriers.
- “Low-level” traffickers caught with at least two signs of trafficking, such as baggies or large amounts of cash, could have to serve at least half their sentence. Selling less than two grams of heroin remains a Class D felony.
- “High-volume” dealers caught selling between 2 grams and 100 grams of heroin would still be considered Class C felons, but dealers would have to serve at least half their sentence. Selling 100 grams or more would result in a Class B felony charge and service of at least half the sentence.
- Importing any amount of heroin for trafficking purposes would result in a Class C felony charge.
A Closer Look at Needle Exchange Ordinance Efforts
Both the Lexington-Fayette County Board of Health and the Urban County Council must provide the authorization to begin a needle-exchange program. Leaders of both organizations have said that they plan to push for the program, but a date has not yet been set for its implementation.
Therefore, it looks as if Louisville will be the first to act. In mid-April, the Louisville Metro Council was readying an ordinance which would direct the Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness to start a needle-exchange program. While details have yet to be hammered out, it is expected that the ordinance will be brought up before the full council for a final vote, likely during May.
Other locales in Kentucky are also looking into needle-exchange programs. The Northern Kentucky Health Department, serving the counties of Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton, are on record regarding their interest in starting a needle-exchange program. However, they are still looking for funding.
Questions? Need Help?
If you are an addict awaiting trial or have questions about how the law might apply to your situation, especially Kentucky’s new heroin law, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Lexington, KY-based Carman Law Firm. As criminal defense attorneys with years of experience, we offer thorough, experienced representation. Call us today at (859) 685-1055, or fill out this online contact form to find out how we can help you.