Prosecutor calls for harsher heroin penalties regardless of amount

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LEBANON, Ind. (April 2, 2015) -- A central Indiana prosecutor wants the people who sell heroin to pay for those who die of overdoses.

"It ruined my life faster than I ever thought it could," one woman, who FOX59 did not identify, said.

That young woman is recovering from an addiction to heroin. We met her and almost a dozen others at a group session at Integrative Wellness in Lebanon, along with counselor Joe Plewa.

"As of now the predominant drug that I see here (is heroin), as far as creating problems for folks," Plewa said.

"I was on opiates for ten years, started with Oxycontin and when (it) went away, (I) just switched to heroin. It’s easier and cheaper to get," a man, who FOX59 also did not identify, said.

Being able to get it easily and cheaply is one of the biggest reasons Hoosiers have been using heroin at alarming rates.

"I know in Indianapolis, it’s everywhere. It’s east side, west side, it’s wherever. It’s bad," one man said.

"It is unfortunately easy to access," Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer said.

That's why Meyer wanted to do something about it. Right now, you have to deal at least five grams to get more than a few years in jail in Indiana. When it comes to heroin, Meyer said that amount is almost unheard of and dealers know not to keep that much on them.

"You see less than a gram out there on the streets," Meyer said.

He wants to instead punish the dealer who sells heroin that leads to an overdose, no matter how small the amount.

"Just simply stated, you deal narcotic drugs and it results in somebody’s death, then you’re going to be held to a higher level," Meyer said.

Those are deaths that could easily have been them, group members told us.

"When I got arrested, I saw the look on my son’s face, you know, with all the cops there and everything. It’s not something I want him to see again," one man said.

"It’ll take you fast and you’re not an exception. I don’t care who you are, you’re not an exception," one woman said.

Meyer and other prosecutors pitched the idea to lawmakers, who drafted a bill at the Statehouse this session. That bill did not make it through, but a change to the law could still be added.

Meyer said he also advocates for treatment options, particularly in instances of inmates who could be better served with treatment. He called the plan one in a series of 'tools' to combat the heroin epidemic.