House bill would increase penalties for convicted heroin dealers

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana House of Representatives is cracking down on heroin dealers. In an amendment to Senator Dan Claitor's heroin bill,  lawmakers added 49 years to the maximum penalty for those caught dealing heroin on the second conviction.

Legislators are responding to an uptick in heroin-related deaths in Louisiana. In Baton Rouge alone,  the death count has tripled in one year. The bill was backed by East Baton Rouge Coroner Dr. Beau Clark and District Attorney Hillar Moore who earlier testified in committee.

"What this bill does is raise it from 50 to 99. The distribution levels are still the same from my bill earlier," said Representative Joe Lopinto, R-Metairie.

But Democrats objected to the addition of the longer prison sentence and made their feelings known.

"Everybody wants to be tough on crime. There are some people who are running for other offices and they want to be tough on crime. We need to be smart on crime and we need to start thinking about treating the problem rather than the symptoms, argued Rep. Terry Landry D-New Iberia.

"So were going back to same basic rules we had before. It took us 10 years to get rid of it and now were putting it back in place," says Rep. Pat Smith D-Baton Rouge.

There was a compromise and Republicans decided they would change the way the bill was written and cap first time heroin dealers at 50 years. But the mandatory minimum sentence was raised from 5 to 10 years. Baton Rouge Representative Ted James argued that people in Louisiana convicted of manslaughter would get a lesser sentence for murder than a heroin dealer.

The bill now goes back to the senate for their consideration.

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