Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas Friday proposed state legislation drafted by her office that would boost penalties for heroin-related crimes and allows prosecutors to charge dealers with homicide in fatal overdoses.
Singas called for a special legislative session in Albany to consider her five-bill package -- aimed at combating a worsening heroin epidemic on Long Island and across the state.
"These legislative changes will give prosecutors better tools to take on street-level dealers, to identify their suppliers, and to collaborate with our law enforcement partners to cut the pipeline of heroin into our state and our neighborhoods," Singas said in a letter delivered Friday to State Senate and Assembly lawmakers. " . . . This is a crisis that requires immediate legislative action."
She discussed the proposed legislation during an exclusive interview with Newsday and News 12 Long Island in her Mineola office.
One of the bills would create a "death by dealer" statute, allowing felony homicide charges to be leveled against dealers whose customers die of overdoses.
The laws would also prevent certain heroin dealers from qualifying for no-jail sentences, and increase penalties for possession of heroin-dealing paraphernalia and doctors and pharmacists who illegally sell prescriptions and prescription drugs, including opioid pain pills.
In drafting the proposed bills, Singas' staff said she collaborated with advocates, experts and law enforcement officials, including Bridget Brennan, the special narcotics prosecutor for New York City.
The proposed legislation -- the first sent to Albany by a local district attorney's office since Kathleen Rice proposed anti-animal cruelty legislation in 2012 -- has not yet been officially sponsored by a state lawmaker.
Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said Friday he would "advocate putting this on the agenda when we get back to session in January."
"We need immediate action on this, and I will work hard in the Assembly to assure a quick response so that we can stem the tide of this epidemic," said Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor. "This is a crisis, not only throughout the state but across the country."
Fatal heroin overdoses in Nassau County through Aug. 31 have doubled compared with the same period last year, rising from 18 to 36, according to data compiled by the Nassau County Police Department. The numbers are preliminary and have not been certified by the county medical examiner, authorities said.
Islandwide, fatal heroin overdoses declined slightly, from 145 in 2013 to 137 last year, according to data recorded by both county medical examiners. The high number of heroin deaths -- despite increasing use of opiate antidote Narcan -- alarms authorities, who say new strategies are needed to address the epidemic.