MAYS LANDING- Since August 2017, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office has charged 14 individuals with first degree Strict Liability for Drug Induced Death, accounting for the deaths of 11 different people dating back to April of 2016. In an effort to combat the opioid epidemic in Atlantic County, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office established the Drug Related Death (DRD) Investigation Squad within the ACPO Gangs, Guns and Narcotics Unit on February 6, 2017.
“My office has now charged 14 individuals with Strict-Liability Homicide for Drug Induced Death since the Drug Related Death (DRD) Investigation Squad began operations in February 2017. Yes, 14 individuals are believed to have been responsible for providing a decedent with the fatal drugs that caused their death, but our work is far from done. Our DRD Squad with a team of investigators and an attorney will stay committed to finding and charging drug dealers who are responsible for these drug related deaths. In Atlantic County, if you are a drug dealer and you are connected to furnishing a victim with drugs that caused their death, we will use every resource to find you and charge you to the extent allowable by law. This is not a warning, this is a promise,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said.
The primary mission of the ACPO-DRD Squad is to assist local agencies with death investigations in cases when the cause of death is suspected to be an overdose of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS). Suspects believed to have been responsible for providing the decedent with the fatal CDS will be investigated for the crime of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9, Strict Liability for Drug-Induced Death, a crime of the First Degree. It is through the cooperation between responding Officers, investigating Detectives, and members of the ACPO-DRD Squad that these cases are promptly investigated and the integrity of the investigations are maintained.
There is a two-pronged focus to the ACPO-DRD Squad: prevention, by getting apparently deadly drugs off the street as soon as possible, and enforcement, by determining who distributed the drugs and charging them with homicide if and when possible. Every single case is reviewed by a detective, a supervisor and Assistant Prosecutor Rick McKelvey who is the designated assistant prosecutor for the ACPO-DRD Squad since its inception.
A charge for strict-liability homicide for drug induced death carries a presumptive sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison. It requires a lengthy and thorough investigation that involves concluding that a particular drug was the cause of death and that the suspect was the person who distributed to the victim. Authorities must rely on laboratory and medical examiner analyses, which can take as long as six months. In the event that evidence ultimately does not support a homicide charge, the unit is able to act quickly to get a potentially deadly batch of drugs off the street and often will charge dealers with other distribution-related crimes, which can carry significant sentences in their own right.
Anyone with information involving serious crimes is asked to call the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office at 609-909-7800 or go to the Prosecutor’s Office Web site at http://www.acpo.org/tips.html and provide information by filling out the form anonymously on the Submit a Tip page.
People can also call Crime Stoppers at 609-652-1234 or 1-800-658-8477 (TIPS) or visit the Crime Stoppers Website at http://www.crimestoppersatlantic.com/. Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and indictment of those who commit crimes in Atlantic County.