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Group says drug homicide bill well-intentioned, but too vague

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — State Representative Aaron Regunberg joined several medical professionals and people in recovery Monday in voicing concerns over proposed legislation that would create stricter penalties for drug dealers who sell someone a drug that leads to a fatal overdose.

The bill, named “Kristen’s Law,” was approved by the Senate last week. It’s named after Kristen Coutu of Cranston, who died of an overdose in 2014. Much of the current argument focuses on who would be impacted should the proposal become law. The legislation could impose a life sentence on a person who commits a drug-induced homicide by selling a lethal drug to a person who subsequently dies of an overdose.

Haley McKee of Warwick is currently in long-term recovery. She believes the way the proposed law is written is too vague.

“It’s a horrible thing when somebody passes, but I don’t think this law really takes into consideration all the factors that contribute to somebody’s passing in an overdose case,” she said.

McKee said punishments for overdoses should not be treated like murder.

“Kristen’s Law” has been making its way through the General Assembly with arguments on both sides.

Those in opposition, including Dr. Jody Rich, who’s an advisor to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s overdose prevention task force, said the law should target drug kingpins, but that’s not how it’s currently written.

“This bill is going to catch the small-time dealers, the people that generally have addictions themselves,” Rich said.

Kristen’s mom, Sue Coutu, believes those dealers do not deserve a second chance.

“Well it’s frustrating for me because they talk a lot about people not having to go to jail and they shouldn’t go to jail and they should get second chances,” she said. “My daughter didn’t get a second chance.”

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on “Kristen’s Law” Wednesday night.

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