So-called “Len Bias” laws are popping up all over the nation in the wake of our opioid epidemic. Len Bias was a college basketball star who overdosed on cocaine only two days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics. Now, states are either resurrecting or promulgating laws that hold drug dealers and fellow users accountable when someone overdoses.
Even in states like Indiana that do not have Len Bias laws, prosecutors are getting creative with their charging to prosecute overdose deaths. In Ripley County, for example, two men are charged with felony murder after a woman overdosed. One man is the woman’s husband, who helped the woman voluntarily inject the drugs into her system, and the other man is the dealer who sold the drugs to the woman’s husband.
But are such laws an effective deterrent for opioid dealing and use? This weekend the New York Times wrote a lengthy piece examining that very question.
One thing is for sure. Deterrent or not, the propriety of charging individuals with murder when someone overdoses on a drug they voluntarily ingested will be an issue Indiana’s appellate courts will have to grapple with soon. Governor Holcomb has made such legislation one of his top priorities.