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In the News: Charges Upgraded in Fatal NJ Overdose Case

Two northern New Jersey men accused of selling heroin to another man who later died from an overdose are now facing more serious charges.

The Associated Press reports that two men in Hackensack, New Jersey who were recently arrested for attempting to sell heroin to an undercover police officer are now facing much heftier charges, due to a tragic turn of events.

The two Paterson, New Jersey residents: twenty-year-old Timothy Volpe and 19-year-old Kaleik Easton were originally charged with distribution of heroin. However, that charge has since been seriously upgraded to several, more severe charges for each. Prosecutors for Bergen County say that the two young men are now being charged with manslaughter, conspiracy to distribute heroin and strict liability for a drug-induced death.

Charges Upgraded Due to Fatal Overdose

According to the prosecutors, Volpe and Easton sold heroin to an Allendale, NJ man back in January. The following day, the 22-year-old was found dead by family members in the family’s home. The cause of death was a fatal heroin overdose.

A few days later, Volpe and Easton were arrested when they allegedly sold heroin to an undercover officer. The connection to the Allendale man’s death was made at that time.

Is Upgrading Charges the Best Approach?

Some professionals in the addiction field as well as opponents of the War on Drugs argue about whether when people who struggle with substance abuse and addiction should automatically face criminal charges if they are arrested for drug-related reasons. They argue that addicts and alcoholics should be given the opportunity to get substance abuse treatment, instead.

It is not clear whether Volpe and Easton struggle with their own drug problem or are purely drug pushers. If their sole “problem” is that they got caught for dealing drugs because this is their way of making money, then, of course, they should be prosecuted for the criminals that they are, in this writer’s opinion. As far as manslaughter chargers, that seems like a stretch. I mean, as sad and desperate as heroin addiction is, I don’t know if the heroin dealers are really culpable for the other young man’s death.

Perhaps if it can be proven that they had cut the supply with fentanyl or some other drug that could be more likely to lead to a fatal overdose, then it might make for a stronger case. On the other hand, if such a charge as “strict liability for a drug-induced death” already exists, then there is precedence. If New Jersey prosecutors can make the case, then it’s up a jury of their peers to decide whether the two are guilty of more than dealing heroin.

Volpe and Easton are in jail on $500,000 cash only bail. Both men are due to appear in court today, Monday 2/25 in order to be charged with the new, upgraded charges.

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