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Feb-03-2007 09:09printcomments

Adam Burch Act Introduced to Punish Drug Dealers in Oregon

House Bill 2610 holds dealers criminally liable creating new Class A felonies.

Oregon State Capitol building

(SALEM) - Beth Jackson of Keizer wants Oregon to take a page out of the federal drug laws handbook and her state legislator is ready to help her.

At Jackson’s request, Representative Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer) introduced House Bill 2610, the “Adam Burch Act”, to allow prosecutors to go after drug dealers who cause the death or serious injury of another person.

“The amount of grieving can’t be measured because there are no words to describe the loss we have suffered,” said Jackson.

She had a brother-in-law die from a heroin overdose in 2003.

A year later, she lost another one to heroin.

He was 19-year old Adam Burch of Salem.

In that case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office was able to convict the three people who supplied drugs to Burch.

They’re now serving 10 years in federal prison.

“We need a law in Oregon similar to the one the feds use,” said Thatcher referring to the Len Bias Act adopted by Congress 20 years ago in honor of the Boston Celtics basketball star who died from a cocaine overdose in 1986.

Under that statute, drug dealers are held responsible for causing death or serious injury and face 20-years minimum behind bars.

Thatcher was on the House Judiciary Committee in 2005.

House Bill 2610 is similar in that it holds dealers criminally liable creating new Class A felonies.

“Drug Induced Homicide” carries a 20 year mandatory minimum sentence if someone manufactures or distributes controlled substances to a person who dies as a result.

“Drug Induced Assault” carries a mandatory minimum of 12 years.

Early release is not allowed in either crime.

Jackson has worked with Katie Suver a Marion County Assistant District Attorney and member of the legislative committee for the Oregon District Attorney’s Association.

Suver noted the ODAA, “would support a law to criminalize conduct that results in death, specifically related to drugs. We believe it would have a deterrent effect on individuals who traffic in controlled substances.”

“We want to send a message to those who deal drugs, that this kind of conduct will not be tolerated. This message has to be very clear. If you distribute drugs in our community, you will suffer significant consequences,” explained Jackson. “This is sound public policy that is not being created to strike at heroin addicts, but at the dealers who distribute this poison.”

The federal sanctions have only been applied in two cases in Oregon.

Several other states have adopted their own Len Bias laws. Officials estimate there are nearly 200 drug related deaths in Oregon every year.

House Bill 2610 will get a first reading in the House of Representatives next week.

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Hank Ruark February 5, 2007 3:16 pm (Pacific time)

Emil, thanks for your clear, sharp insights. Joel, re car-dealer, in some cases yes, others no...which law sets up as it should. It's called rational justice under the Constitution.

Emil February 5, 2007 9:39 am (Pacific time)

The difference, Joel, is that the other products you mentioned are legal. If a product is legal and is used in a manner other than what the manufacturer reccommends, there is not the same liability as when a product is used outside its lawful scope. As Hank mentioned, alcohol sales to minors is a good example. Alcohol is legal. But when people wrong with it, like give it to minors, they are responsible for the consequences of their criminality. In much the same way, a drug dealer should be help accountable when he or she uses a product in an unlawful manner and kills someone.

Henry Ruark February 4, 2007 2:39 pm (Pacific time)

K. et al: If Justice can determine guilt deep enough for death penalty, this one ought to be rather easy...each case on its merits, per Constitution. Yrs re those allied in industry supply chain worth consideration, and NOT new principle, as you will know.. Gotta start somewheres to set right tremondous wrongs being done for dollars every day...good place surely these "poisonous" places where product known to be fatal and deeply attractive to some.

Joel Killough February 4, 2007 11:22 am (Pacific time)

In order to institute a law like this, there needs to be a similar law punishing the distributors of alcohol, firearms, and cigarettes. Any one of these products kills more people yearly then all illegal drugs combined. Where would a law such as this end? Should anytime anyone dies in a car crash should the dealership be charged with that persons death?

Henry Ruark February 4, 2007 6:01 am (Pacific time)

"See also" discussion of alcohol sales to minors. Rational, reasonable safety control re undisciplined youth driving under-the-influence will force some action, soon.

Hank Ruark February 3, 2007 11:43 am (Pacific time)

This is commonsense application of "heavy consequence for heavy behavior", as clearly shown by comment from Suver and ODAA, the most knowledgeable advisors for the Legislature. We need same principle applied to Ethics Commission, per previous Op Eds re ten-times multiplier for fines-now...where's action on that principle ? Collecting freebie dinner checks ain't never gonna get it done !!

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