Lawrence County drug traffickers face increased penalties

Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 1:33 PM EST
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LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) - Charges are changing in Lawrence County to better hold drug traffickers accountable.

If an individual dies from a drug overdose in the county, the person who provided the drugs can now face involuntary manslaughter charges.

“We have a huge drug problem in the community, and it effects everyone in the community,” said Prosecutor Brigham Anderson.

It’s a deadly problem in our region that local officials have been trying to tackle for years. The drug epidemic continues to take countless lives.

“Methamphetamine, fentanyl, heroin, are deadly,” Anderson said. “They can be deadly with one-time use.”

Anderson has increased the severity of penalties for drug traffickers who distribute drugs that cause overdose deaths.

“We’ve been charging those individuals with involuntary manslaughter, which in Ohio is causing the death of another while committing a felony,” he said.

Anderson made the decision to take the consequences of these crimes to the furthest extent because he felt the charges in place were not enough.

“If drug dealers know that if they sell drugs and someone dies as a result that I’m going to pursue them with murder charges or involuntary manslaughter charges which carry a significant penalty, much more significant than trafficking then they’re hopefully going to think twice about selling these drugs to individuals,” Anderson said.

Anderson tries to get ahead of it by offering programs for those struggling with addiction, like offering low-level offenders treatment in lieu of criminal charges.

“When that fails and someone dies and it’s someone else’s responsibility it’s my job as prosecutor to make sure justice is served for that victim and that victim’s family,” he said.

Last week, Lawrence County had its first jury conviction for involuntary manslaughter for corrupting another person with drugs.

Anderson says the suspect sold fentanyl to a young woman who later died from an overdose.

The jury found the suspect guilty on involuntary manslaughter charges.