Reduces the penalty for most first offense drug possession charges from a class B felony to an unspecified misdemeanor.
Heroin Addiction: Law Enforcement
- Penalties for heroin-related offenses are linked to the quantity of the drug involved in the crime, with higher sanctions for offenses near schools and heroin-related deaths.
- New Hampshire allows at-risk individuals and those close to them to administer the overdose-reversing drug Narcan. Overdose victims or those attending to them may also request emergency services without being liable to arrest or prosecution.
- Pro: Tougher penalties deter abuse and get addicts off the streets, reducing crime.
- Con: The resources devoted to law enforcement would be better used for treatment, a more cost-effective response to addiction that reduces the likelihood of reoffending.
Heroin is considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The full text of laws relating to heroin and other drug crimes in New Hampshire can be found here.
Maximum allowable penalties are determined based on the quantity of heroin involved in the crime, with amounts in excess of 5 grams incurring the toughest sentences. Penalties are doubled if the offense is committed within 1,000 feet of a school.
Penalty for Heroin-Related Deaths
NH law includes a provision that holds a person who manufactures, sells, or dispenses heroin liable for any death that results from use of that drug. Offenders can potentially be sentenced to life imprisonment.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences in NH
New Hampshire has only one mandatory minimum sentence related to heroin, which specifies that a person convicted as “a drug enterprise leader” must receive a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison, with a maximum of life imprisonment. Drug enterprise leaders are defined as those who conspire with more than one person to manufacture, sell, or otherwise dispense a Schedule I or II controlled substance.
It is legal in New Hampshire for health care professionals to prescribe the drug Narcan or its equivalent, which helps reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, to at-risk people or their family members, friends, or other individuals potentially in a position to assist them in case of an overdose. Those individuals are permitted to store and dispense the drug to someone suffering from an overdose.
New Hampshire law also protects individuals who call emergency services for assistance for drug overdose victims. Both witnesses of a drug overdose and those who are themselves overdosing may request medical assistance without being subject to arrest or prosecution.
Drug and mental health courts are specialized judicial programs designed to handle cases involving drug and alcohol dependency or mental illness. Drug courts tend to focus on treatment and rehabilitation through close monitoring and graduated sanctions and incentives, rather than conventional prison sentences. They are seen as an alternative to the traditional justice system, though opinions vary on whether they effectively address underlying substance abuse problems or are too lenient on offenders. Legislation creating a statewide drug court system was passed in June 2016.
Additional law enforcement initiatives considered or implemented in other states as a means of combating heroin abuse include:
- Instituting higher penalties or mandatory minimum sentences for high-volume traffickers
- Reducing penalties for possession of smaller quantities of heroin, replacing prison sentences with mandatory treatment
- Creating drug-free zones with higher potential penalties in the vicinity of drug treatment centers or methadone clinics.
- More strictly defining the quantities of heroin that constitute “intent to sell” by someone who possesses them.
PROS & CONS
"NH should strengthen penalties for heroin-related offenses."
- Heroin addiction fuels crime, which makes it a public safety issue. Responding to such crime with treatment only and not punishment is unfair to victims.
- Stricter sentences serve as a deterrent to those who might consider using or selling heroin.
- Tougher penalties for heroin-related offenses would enable law enforcement officials to crack down on abusers and dealers, taking them off the streets.
- Putting addicts in jail forces them to get treatment they might not otherwise receive.
"NH should maintain or reduce penalties for heroin-related offenses."
- Strict laws channel addicts into the prison system, where they do not necessarily receive the treatment they need to break the cycle of addiction and recidivism.
- The resources currently devoted to prosecuting and imprisoning minor drug offenders would be more effective if redirected to treatment, which is a better solution to the problem of drug abuse.
- Harsh potential penalties make drug users less likely to seek help.
- Focusing on treatment for addicts instead of putting them into the prison system would be most cost-effective for taxpayers.
Adds illicit drugs and drug paraphernalia to the drug take-back programs.
Reduces the penalty for first offense drug possession charges to a misdemeanor.
Reduces the penalty for many drug possession charges from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Authorizes community-based needle exchange programs and requires the Department of Health and Human Services to develop rules for such programs.
Legalizes trace amounts of drugs in needles, and authorizes persons other than pharmacists to dispense hypodermic syringes and needles. This bill would allow needle exchange programs.
Expands the type of public functions for which a person must request a police detail and allows police officers from counties or state agencies to serve as such detail.
Allows a charge of manslaughter for selling heroin or fentanyl if the user dies.
If a first responder administers Narcan to a youth age 14-17 for an overdose, this bill requires the state to assess whether the youth should be placed at the Sununu Youth Services Center.
Appropriates $1,155,000 to hire five state troopers assigned to drug enforcement on the state border. This bill also appropriates $3,340,000 for state and local law enforcement and the state lab for overtime related to drug enforcement.
Creates a penalty for escaping from administrative confinement or court-mandated treatment programs.
Establishes the statewide drug court grant program.
Creates an offender registry for individuals with three or more drug dealing convictions.
Adds fentanyl to the list of controlled drugs penalized under the controlled drug act.
Establishes a registry for individuals with heroin related convictions, similar to the sex offender registry.
Prohibits the manufacture, sale, and possession of premixed synthetic urine to defeat a drug or alcohol screening test.
Establishes a grant program to assist state, county, and local law enforcement agencies in addressing the state’s opioid crisis. The House amended the bill to also revise premium contribution amounts for retired state employees.
This bill includes many regulations aimed at combating heroin and prescription drug abuse. For example, this bill increases the penalties for abusing fentanyl and provides funding for an upgrade to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
Establishes a criminal penalty for the possession, sale, or use of kratom by anyone under age 18.
Makes a general fund appropriation of $2 million to the Housing Finance Authority to fund supportive housing for persons with substance use disorders.
As originally written, this bill included various measures related to drug addiction, such as adding fentanyl to drug laws. The Senate amended the bill to instead revise the Governor's Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery and make additional appropriations for drug abuse prevention and treatment.
Authorizes $1.5 million in grants for local law enforcement to fight heroin trafficking, as part of Operation Granite Hammer.
Should NH increase law enforcement policies and penalties for heroin-related offenses?
Rep. Brendan Phinney has proposed a bill "relative to the criminal penalty for certain controlled drugs". Last year, Rep. Phinney put forward a bill that reduced many drug penalties from a felony to a misdemeanor. It is possible this bill is similar but the details have not yet been made public.
Sen. Jeb Bradley has proposed a bill for 2019 that would continue funding the state's cross border drug interdiction program, aimed at reducing the flow of drugs north from Massachusetts.
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