New bill would change punishments for drug dealers

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WHAS11) -- As the death toll mounts in the Commonwealth, lawmakers are targeting dealers with new penalties for possession that also leave open the opportunity for addicts to get help. 

In recent weeks WHAS11 has reported on accidents involving heroin users driving under the influence and overdoses by the dozens, and lawmakers are witnessing the effects in their districts. 

If Senate Bill 14 becomes law, it would mean first-time offenders caught with heroin or fentanyl face a Class C felony with a second offense moving up to a Class B. Both carry harsher punishments than the law stands now. 

The bill has passed the Kentucky Senate, and the Kentucky House will vote next.

Testimony today in the house judiciary committee explained that the plan would give some leniency to addicts caught in possession.  

"This makes it a class C felony in any amount unless the defendant can prove beyond a preponderance of the evidence or show I should say show with the preponderance of the evidence that they are an addict,” Sen. John Schnickel (R) said.

Proof one is an addict would reduce the charge to a Class D felony and allow for less time as the person gets treatment for the heroin addiction. 

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