(West Virginia) July 5, 2022- In a bellwether ruling which will likely impact courts across the nation, a federal judge in West Virginia cleared three major drug distributors of legal wrongdoing in the state’s opioid health crisis. In an upcoming study from Right On Crime, a national conservative criminal justice campaign, we explore how West Virginia policymakers could improve existing law enforcement-led opioid abuse responses.
“The ruling in West Virginia in favor of drug distributors is another reminder of both the incredible human toll of the opioid epidemic and the difficulties facing policymakers trying to end it,” said Lars Trautman, West Virginia and National Director of Right On Crime. “As West Virginia’s policymakers consider alternative ways to address the opioid abuse crisis, they should include measures to bolster and improve existing law enforcement efforts to help divert individuals in need into treatment.”
In the 184-page ruling, U.S. District Judge David Faber wrote, “The opioid crisis has taken a considerable toll on the citizens of Cabell County and the City of Huntington. And while there is a natural tendency to assign blame in such cases, they must be decided not based on sympathy, but on the facts and the law.”
The Upcoming Study:
The Legislative Role in Law Enforcement–Led Opioid Abuse Response in West Virginia.
- West Virginia’s law enforcement agencies are increasingly adopting new strategies to counter the opioid epidemic that favor treatment over traditional criminal justice methods.
- West Virginia’s opioid abuse response now includes Quick Response Teams, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, and an Angel Initiative. Collectively, these programs aim to reduce drug overdoses and replace criminal justice involvement with treatment.
- West Virginia’s law enforcement–led opioid abuse response programs fail to reach their full potential, with limited geographic reach and officers lacking legal procedures available to peers in other states.
- Lawmakers could expand program reach by providing greater state support and guidance for local initiatives and by authorizing angel initiatives for local law enforcement.
- Providing law enforcement officers in West Virginia with civil protective custody powers and additional citation authority could help them better respond to opioid-related emergencies without resorting to arrests.
To request a copy of the full study, please contact Tonya Kerr, Communications Director of Right On Crime [email protected] or 512-300-3767
Right on Crime supports conservative solutions for reducing crime, restoring victims, reforming offenders, and lowering taxpayer costs and is a national campaign of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.