Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini and New York State Sen. Todd Kaminsky were joined by Sen. Anthony Palumbo, Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and members of the Suffolk County Legislature to announce the introduction of a bill that would create a “death by dealer” statute under the New York State Penal Law to hold drug dealers accountable for causing fatal overdoses. The bill was introduced by Sen. Kaminsky and co-sponsored by Sen. Palumbo in the State Senate and introduced by Assemblywoman Griffin and co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Giglio and Assemblyman Thiele in the State Assembly.
“We simply cannot allow drug dealers to continue killing our family members, loved ones, and neighbors,” District Attorney Sini said. “It is a sick and depraved way of making money to sell drugs to people and play Russian roulette with their lives. We need to pass laws that empower law enforcement, not make it more difficult, to hold killers accountable. It’s very simple: if you sell drugs and cause death, you will be held responsible for that death. This will give law enforcement the tools needed to hold drug dealers accountable, it will give families members who lost a loved one justice, and – perhaps most importantly, as a practical matter – it will provide a deterrent to drug dealers which will save lives.”
“When drug dealers kill, they should be treated like murderers,” said Sen. Kaminsky. “After a rash of overdose deaths on Long Island, yesterday I stood with Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini in support of my ‘Death by Dealer’ legislation. Overdose deaths have increased dramatically, and law enforcement needs every available weapon in this battle. Right now, when a dealer’s drugs cause an overdose, the law does not allow them to be charged with homicide or even manslaughter. I have been working since 2015 with former District Attorney Madeline Singas and District Attorney Tim Sini to change this — and my bill with Assemblywoman Judy Griffin does just that. When a drug dealer causes an overdose, he should end up in prison, period.”
“I commend the work of local law enforcement for swiftly investigating and apprehending these suspected drug dealers and for their efforts at getting deadly drugs off our streets and out of our communities,” said Sen. Anthony Palumbo. “We must address this deadly scourge head-on. The new ‘death by dealer’ legislation, which I co-sponsor, would reverse the trends of going soft on criminals and provide District Attorney’s Offices and law enforcement with an important tool to keep drug dealers behind bars and deadly drugs off our streets.”
“The opioid and drug epidemic is a monumental problem on Long Island and throughout New York State and the laws holding dealers accountable must be strengthened,” said Assemblywoman Judy Griffin. “That is why Senator Todd Kaminsky and I’s “Death by Dealer'' legislation is so important. This legislation is a step in the right direction because it holds dealers significantly more accountable by increasing penalties and charges when a homicide occurs. When passed, this measure will be an effective way to combat the opioid and drug epidemic.”
“This is important legislation that puts peddlers of fatal drugs behind bars for good,” said Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio. “I'm calling on the Speakers of both houses to convene and adopt immediately, we must deter these dealers with this legislation to save lives. I'm proud to be a co-sponsor of this bipartisan bill.”
“Enough is enough,” said Assemblyman Fred Thiele. “I am terribly saddened by the recent fatal overdoses in our East End community. We need justice for overdose deaths now. We cannot stand by and allow yet another tragedy to occur in our communities before we take action. That is why I am a co-sponsor of the ‘Death by Dealer’ statute in New York (A.6314), allowing us to charge dealers with homicide if someone dies as a result of their actions. We need justice and we need it now!”
“For far too long, the current system has made it incredibly challenging to hold dangerous drug dealers who peddle lethal poison to our communities accountable,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “We need action now to help save lives. That is why I am calling on Albany to pass the ‘Death By Dealer’ statute to help provide closure for families and hold those who knowingly sell these dangerous drugs in our state accountable for the lives that they steal from our fellow New Yorkers.”
The proposed law would create a new statute under the State’s Penal Law for Homicide due to Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, a class A felony, which carries a maximum period of incarceration of 25 years to life in prison, and Homicide due to Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree, a class B felony.
Under the proposed law, an individual would be guilty of Homicide due to Sale of a Controlled Substance if he or she commits one of several enumerated offenses in connection with the sale of controlled substances and the person to whom the controlled substance was sold dies from the injection, inhalation, absorption or ingestion of the substance.
Homicide due to Sale of a Controlled Substance charges will be upgraded to a class A felony if the drug is classified as a schedule II narcotic, an additional substance is added to enhance the effects, a dealer is aware that the user is under the influence of narcotics at the time of the sale, or if the dealer is aware that the user has participated in a rehabilitation program or has suffered an overdose within the last 30 days prior to the sale.
The proposed legislation also amends the current statute for Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree to lower the aggregate weight of narcotics necessary for that charge, and to add a minimum number of packages of narcotics required for the charge regardless of weight.
New York State Penal Law currently includes a statute for Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance to a Child; however, the proposed legislation would create two subsections for Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance to a Child in the First Degree, a class A-II felony, and Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance to a Child in the Second Degree, a class B felony. A person would be guilty of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance to a Child if he or she is over the age of 21 and knowingly and unlawfully sells a controlled substance to a person less than 18 years old.
Lastly, the proposed legislation amends the Penal Law statute for Criminal Sale of a Prescription for a Controlled Substance to include the unlawful sale of electronic prescriptions or blank prescription forms by physicians or pharmacists.
The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office has previously convicted four individuals of Manslaughter in the Second Degree for selling drugs that caused fatal overdoses:
- In August 2016, in a first for New York State, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office indicted Roxy Headley Jr., of Mastic Beach, on a charge of Manslaughter in the Second Degree for selling heroin and fentanyl that caused a fatal overdose. Headley pleaded guilty on March 2, 2018, and was sentenced on May 16, 2018, to 11 to 15 years in prison.
- In December 2016, the District Attorney’s Office indicted James Fava, of Ronkonkoma, on a charge of Manslaughter in the Second Degree in connection with a fatal overdose. Fava was the first person in New York State to be convicted of manslaughter for causing a fatal overdose when he pleaded guilty on Nov. 16, 2017. He was sentenced on Feb. 13, 2018, to four to six years in prison.
- John Brophy, of Riverhead, pleaded guilty on Aug. 30, 2019, to Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a B felony, and Manslaughter in the Second Degree, a C felony. Brophy was sentenced on Oct. 3, 2019, by Suffolk County Court Judge Anthony S. Senft, Jr. to four to six years in prison
- Former NYPD Officer Joseph Recca, of West Islip, pleaded guilty to Manslaughter in the Second Degree on Feb. 26, 2021, and was sentenced on May 3, 2021, to five years in prison.