Officials hope new felony charge sends message to drug dealers 213

MORGANTOWN — Law enforcement officials say a new charge of drug delivery resulting in death sends a message to drug dealers.

The charge is relatively new to West Virginia, but now three people in Monongalia County have faced it in their criminal proceedings.

Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney Perri Jo DeChristopher said drug delivery with death cases can be difficult to prove, but if the evidence is there her office will continue to pursue the charges.

DeChristopher said the punishment calls for three to 15 years in prison, the same as voluntary manslaughter.

The sponsor of the Senate bill that became law was Ryan Weld (R-Brooke, 01). Weld said the bill has two parts. One to hold people accountable if someone overdoses and dies — in those cases, the person who provided the drugs can be held responsible. The other part creates accountability for people who don’t report situations in which someone is overdosing and needs medical attention.

DeChristopher said the charges send a message to drug dealers that deaths will be criminally investigationed. It also treats the people who die as victims.

Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston said the West Virginia law is now in line with federal charges.

“Hopefully what we’re saying to the dealers is you’re responsible for your actions,” he said.

Preston compared the situation to alcohol: For people who serve alcohol, there is liability if a customer commits a crime or harms another while intoxicated.

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