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Bills seek longer sentences for fentanyl, heroin dealers

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(The Center Square) – Michigan Rep. Sarah Lightner, Jackson County Prosecutor Jerard M. Jarzynka and two local families who have lost children to opioid overdoses support longer sentences for some illegal drug dealers.

Grieving families support giving judges “better tools” to punish drug dealers who lace drugs with fentanyl that kill users.

House Bills 5124, 5125, and 5126 aim to allow stronger sentences for criminals convicted of producing or distributing drugs like heroin and fentanyl.

A felony’s classification level factors into the sentencing decision after a criminal is convicted. The legislation aims to increase the felony class for crimes related to delivering or manufacturing heroin, fentanyl, or carfentanil – another strong drug. A higher classification would increase the likelihood of tougher prison sentences for illegal drug producers and dealers.

“Dealers who knowingly cut fentanyl into other drugs and put it out there in our communities are murderers,” Lightner, a Springport Republican, said in a statement. “They know the consequences of their actions and they’re still doing it for the dollar. Then they get a slap on the hand when they get caught. It’s wrong. We need to get serious when it comes to the penalties to make these bad actors take a second look at what they’re doing.”

The plan aims to allow stronger sentences for criminals convicted of producing or distributing drugs like heroin and fentanyl.

A felony’s classification level factors into the sentencing decision after a criminal is convicted. The legislation seeks to increase the felony class for crimes related to delivering or manufacturing heroin, fentanyl, or carfentanil. A higher classification would increase the likelihood of tougher prison sentences.

Julie Risner said her son Christopher died from an overdose in 2018 after receiving heroin laced with fentanyl. The dealer was later sentenced to 11 years in prison.

“Our son was murdered by this man, and he only got 11 years,” Risner said. “The sentencing guidelines have to change. Give the judges better tools.”

After the death of his son, Andy, Mike Hirst founded a nonprofit called Andy’s Angels to help people struggling with addiction. He supports harsher penalties for dealers who distribute heroin and fentanyl.

“This a problem that’s destroying the moral fiber of our country right now – and we have the opportunity to do something about it,” Hirst said. “We can’t give an inch on this issue.”

Jarzynka said fentanyl is killing people in Jackson County and beyond.

“It’s frustrating to me, as a prosecutor, to see the death and destruction that’s pretty clearly limited to this particular drug, and nothing being done about it,” Jarzynka said.

House Bills 5124-5126 remain under consideration by the House Criminal Justice Committee.

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