New Republican-led bill would aim to punish drug dealers who sell to addicts

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Death by Distribution law could empower a jury to convict drug dealers who are suspected of causing someone to overdose. Republican lawmakers filed the bill Wednesday in the House and Senate.

Three years ago, 28-year-old Josh McBride lost his 10-year battle with drug addiction.

His father, Bob McBride, said that on the night before Josh's death, he had brought his son home after two separate stints in rehab. But Josh relapsed.

"I found him in his room the next day," Bob said. "The text message exchange with his dealer was on his phone."

His son's dealer was charged with second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence in North Carolina of nearly 40 years.

But Bob McBride said the dealer took a plea deal for involuntary manslaughter, and is serving a minimum of 91 months in prison.

On Wednesday, during a news conference at the State Legislature, law enforcement, district attorneys and lawmakers said "no more."

Six Republicans Introduced Death by Distribution (Rep. Dean Arp (R- Union), Rep. Destin Hall (R- Caldwell), Rep. Carson Smith (R- Columbus, Pender), Rep. John Faircloth (R- Guilford), Sen. Harry Brown (R- Jones, Onslow), Sen. Dan Bishop (R- Mecklenburg)

The group said the law will give prosecutors and judges across the state another option to hold dealers accountable if second-degree murder is off the table.

A Death by Distribution conviction would carry a maximum sentence of 7 1/2 years.

For more serious cases, a judge could opt to put a dealer in prison for a decade.

"Criminalizing things, that doesn't onto itself solve the problem," Hall said. "This is just one tool we want to give these folks to work with."

On Wednesday in Orange County, Nathan Windham was charged with second-degree murder.

Police said they believe he is responsible for an 18-year-old's overdose on opioids last November.

Lawmakers said 1,500 people a year die in North Carolina from opioid abuse.

In 2017, Danielle Ash was found dead on the side of the highway from an overdose.

Her mother, Dana, told ABC11 that the 20-year-old had just started using heroin.

"She said, 'mom I thought I could just try this a couple of times,'" Dana Ash recalled. "I think the drug dealers need to be stopped. And holding them accountable is a huge piece of slowing down this epidemic."

Under this proposed law, prosecutors would not have to prove malice or intent.

Republicans said they have bipartisan support.
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