New legislation looks to create harsher penalties for drug dealers

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A new bill being drafted right now would create stiffer penalties for drug dealers. The goal is to keep dealers convicted of certain crimes behind bars for at least a decade.

Senator Jim Merritt (R- Indianapolis) is sponsoring the bill. Since 2018 is a non-budget year, extra funds can't be granted to fight the state's drug epidemic. A new law would help in the fight to keep high-level dealers off the streets.

There are two major components of the bill:

  1. A dealer convicted selling Fentanyl-laced drugs or any type of illegal Fentanyl would get a minimum of 10 years.
  2. A dealer convicted of selling any type of opioid to an addict who dies will also be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years.

Currently, the state does not have minimum sentencing guidelines for someone convicted of selling Fentanyl or a dealer convicted of selling drugs leading to an overdose. Merritt believes a new law would send a message to dealers attempting to sell potent drugs in Indiana.

"It says to big time drug dealer, do not come in our communities," Merritt said. "We need to get these drugs of the street and the only way to get the drug off the street is to get the drug dealer off the street."

Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox agrees with the potential for a new law to keep dealers incarcerated for longer periods of time.

"The longer they spend incarcerated, the less likelihood that they're going to sell drugs to individuals out here on the streets and/or harm any more of our children," Sheriff Cox said.

Sheriff Cox said his county has a problem with drug dealers re-offending.

"It seems like they get a drug dealer off the street and it's not long after that they're buying from the same dealer again," said Sheriff Cox.

With longer sentences means a concern for jail overcrowding. Johnson County is one community dealing with that constant problem. Despite the concern, Sheriff Cox says he supports this potential new law.

"There’s a place for certain individuals and drug dealers who are subjecting our kids and other individuals out here to the possibility of death. Jail’s the appropriate place for those individuals. We’ll never turn on the no vacancy sign for drug dealers here in Johnson County," Sheriff Cox said.

Senator Merritt said he plans to file the bill sometime this week. He hopes to have it passed this session.

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