Alcohol/Drug Issues

Governor signs Muñoz and Bucco bill strengthening penalties for drunk drivers who kill someone

TRENTON, N.J. – Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Nancy F. Muñoz and Assemblyman Anthony Bucco increasing penalties for deaths caused by drunk drivers. Ralph & David’s Law, named for two drunk driving victims, establishes a 3rd degree crime called strict liability vehicular homicide.

“The punishment will fit the crime with this new law,” said Muñoz (R-Union). “A drunk driver behind the wheel puts lives in danger. There will be a severe price to pay if they kill someone.”

The penalty for a crime of the third degree is three to five years in prison, a fine up to $15,000, or both. The law removes the presumption of non-imprisonment for first-time offenders.

“Getting a justifiable punishment for a drunk driver who takes a life has been extremely difficult,” said Bucco (R-Morris). “Thirty days for killing a little boy isn’t justice. Ralph & David’s Law addresses a serious weakness in our laws.”

David Heim was 13 years old in 2004 when he was run over and killed by a drunk driver who was sentenced to only 30 days in jail. Ralph Politi Jr. was a young businessman who was struck and fatally injured by an intoxicated driver who swerved on to the shoulder in 2012. The driver was acquitted of first-degree aggravated manslaughter and second-degree vehicular manslaughter.

MUÑOZ BILL TO HELP PEOPLE WITH ADDICTIONS FIND TREATMENT FACILITIES WINS ASSEMBLY APPROVAL

The General Assembly approved legislation Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors on Thursday to assist people with drug and alcohol addictions who are seeking help at residential treatment centers.

The bill, A-3955, requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to maintain a database that can be accessed by the public on the availability of open beds in residential treatment facilities that receive state or county funding.

“With prescription drug abuse a major problem in our state, thousands of adult and adolescents are having a difficult time finding a facility with an available bed. Many have to wait three weeks or longer, which is much too long for someone with a drug or alcohol problem,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “The process can be complicated, because of a lack of a centralized information source. A database will help streamline the process, saving people time and unnecessary frustration.”

A 2013 report by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated that of 179,000 people in New Jersey who abuse or were dependent on illicit drugs, only a quarter received treatment.

Under the bill, treatment facilities will be required to submit at least once a day, information on the number of open beds that are available for treatment. The database will include, by county, the address and telephone number of the facility; the type of services provided; the licensed bed capacity, and the number of open beds that are available.

PANEL ADVANCES MUÑOZ BILL TO HELP PEOPLE WITH ADDICTIONS

An Assembly panel today advanced legislation Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz sponsors to assist people with drug and alcohol addictions who are seeking help at residential treatment centers.

The bill, A-3955, requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to maintain a database that can be accessed by the public on the availability of open beds in residential treatment facilities that receive state or county funding. The Assembly Appropriations Committee today approved the measure.

“Even when someone with an alcohol or drug problem wants help, it can be tough to find,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “Thousands of adults and adolescents are being turned away from treatment facilities due to a lack of available space. The process can be complicated, because of a lack of a centralized information source. A database will help streamline the process, saving people time and unnecessary frustration.”

According to a November 2013 media report, at least 30,000 adults and 15,000 adolescents were turned away from treatment in 2009.

Under the bill, treatment facilities will be required to submit at least once a day, information on the number of open beds that are available for treatment. The database will include, by county, the address and telephone number of the facility; the type of services provided; the licensed bed capacity, and the number of open beds that are available.

ANGELINI-MUÑOZ BILL PREVENTING TEEN COUGH MEDICINE ABUSE ADVANCES

Continuing their efforts to combat drug abuse by adolescents, Assembly Republicans Mary Pat Angelini and Nancy F. Muñoz sponsor legislation prohibiting the sale of over-the-counter medications containing dextromethorphan to persons under the age of 18. The bill, A-622/1469, today won General Assembly approval.

Dextromethorphan, commonly known as DXM, is an over-the-counter ingredient found in more than 120 cough and combination cold medicines, including Nyquil, Robitussin, Coricidin, Delsym, Zicam, Theraflu, and Vick’s Formula 44. It can cause hallucinations, seizures and death when taken in large quantities.

“DXM is affordable, easy to get and legal. Unfortunately, that’s a combination which makes it appealing to teenagers who are taking increased doses to get high,” said Angelini, R-Monmouth. “Using products with DXM to get high is more popular among this age group than cocaine, ecstasy, LDS and meth. Like alcohol, tobacco and pseudoephedrine, we need to make DXM more difficult for youngsters to obtain. That’s the goal of this bill, but parents also need to be aware of this very serious health issue.”

“Since DXM is legal, many teens believe it’s less dangerous than illegal drugs. It’s not,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “Taken in large doses, it can cause hallucinations and loss of motor control. It’s often combined with other ingredients like antihistamines and decongestants. High doses of these combined meds can cause fatal liver injury and cardiovascular problems.

“If they aren’t already doing so, parents should pay attention to what’s in their medicine cabinets and who is using what drugs,” she continued.

The bill also requires the Department of Health to post a link on its website containing a list of products in which dextromethorphan is an active ingredient.

GOVERNOR SIGNS MUÑOZ-O’SCANLON BILL ALLOWING MORE RESPONDERS, HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS TO GIVE OVERDOSE ANTIDOTES

To save lives in cases of a heroin overdose, Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon sponsor legislation that allows more first responders and other healthcare professionals to administer drug overdose antidotes and protects them from liability. The bill was signed into law today by Gov. Christie.

“Heroin overdoses can take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes to turn deadly. Every second counts when reacting to an overdose situation,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset, who is a registered nurse. “Allowing more first responders and other professionals to administer this critical first aid without fear of legal repercussions will help prevent more unnecessary tragedies.”

Under the current “Overdose Prevention Act,” healthcare practitioners and pharmacists are protected from liability when prescribing, dispensing, or administering an opioid overdose antidote. This bill, S-2378/A-3720, expands the list of people authorized to administer an opioid antidote and provides them immunity from liability, including sterile syringe access program employees, law enforcement officials, emergency medical technicians, and other emergency responders. In addition to heroin, opioids include drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and codeine.

“Our first responders will now have the necessary tools to save lives when time is of the essence,” said O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth. “They no longer will need to worry about liability when someone’s life is on the line. This law allows them to treat those in need without second guessing themselves and risking catastrophe.”

The measure also authorizes needle exchange programs to obtain a standing order permitting their employees to carry/dispense opioid antidotes, and provide overdose prevention information to clients.

A recent national trend of rising heroin overdose deaths across demographic groups has been reflected in New Jersey. Last year, more than 500 residents died from heroin overdoses – nearly double the number reported in 2010.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have implemented laws making it easier for responders to give life saving antidotes to reverse overdoses.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY APPROVES MUÑOZ & O’SCANLON BILL EXPANDING USE OF LIFE-SAVING OVERDOSE ANTIDOTE

Assembly Republicans Nancy F. Muñoz and Declan O’Scanlon sponsor legislation, approved today by the General Assembly, to allow more first responders and other healthcare professionals to administer drug overdose antidotes and protects them from liability.

“Every second counts when reacting to an overdose situation,” said Muñoz, a registered nurse and the Deputy Republican Leader in the Assembly. “Allowing more first responders and other professionals to administer this critical first aid will help prevent more unnecessary heroin-related tragedies,” continued Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset.

Currently, under the “Overdose Prevention Act,” healthcare practitioners and pharmacists are protected from liability when prescribing, dispensing, or administering an opioid overdose antidote. This bill, A-3720, expands the list of people authorized to administer a potentially life-saving antidote and provides them immunity from liability.

Under Muñoz and O’Scanlon’s bill, opioid antidotes may be administered by sterile syringe access program employees, law enforcement officials, emergency medical technicians, and other emergency responders. In addition to heroin, opioids include drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and codeine.

“We need to provide our first responders with all the necessary tools to save lives when time is of the essence,” said O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth. “When someone’s life is in the balance, emergency workers need to be able to react appropriately, without the fear of liability. This bill permits them to provide life-sustaining treatment without second guessing themselves.”

A recent national trend of rising heroin overdose deaths across demographic groups has been reflected in New Jersey. Last year, more than 500 residents died from heroin overdoses – nearly double the number reported in 2010.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have implemented laws making it easier for responders to give life saving antidotes to reverse overdoses.

ASSEMBLY APPROVES MUÑOZ BILL ADDRESSING HEROIN EPIDEMIC

Legislation Deputy Republican Leader Nancy Muñoz sponsors to combat New Jersey’s heroin crisis won approval Thursday from the General Assembly. The bill, A-783/A-2831, cleared the Assembly Appropriations Committee last month and the Assembly Judiciary Committee in June.

“We need to give law enforcement officials the tools they need to prosecute criminals who are spreading heroin in our local communities,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “This is a frightening epidemic that crosses racial, geographic and socioeconomic lines. Current law allows individuals arrested for heroin offenses to avoid the most serious drug charges. That, along with convenience and low cost, is feeding this crisis. We need to update our statutes to reflect reality. It’s time to make the punishment fit the crime.”

The measure implements a recommendation from the July 2013 report from the State Commission on Investigation titled “Scenes from an Epidemic: A Report on the SCI’s Investigation of Prescription Pill and Heroin Abuse.” It increases the penalties for manufacturing, distributing, and dispensing heroin by reducing the amount of heroin necessary to be charged for first, second and third-degree offenses.

Since the seriousness of drug crimes is currently measured by the amount or weight of the controlled dangerous substance, the distribution of heroin and cocaine carry the same penalty. Heroin, however, provides more pharmacological effect from a given weight than does cocaine. As a result, the amounts of heroin consumed by an average user and carried by an average dealer are far lower than those involving cocaine, therefore, those who manufacture or distribute heroin are treated more leniently than those who distribute cocaine.

MUÑOZ-O’SCANLON BILL ALLOWING MORE RESPONDERS, HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS TO GIVE OVERDOSE ANTIDOTES ADVANCES

To save lives in cases of a heroin overdose, Assembly Deputy Republican Leader Nancy F. Muñoz and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon sponsor legislation that allows more first responders and other healthcare professionals to administer drug overdose antidotes and protects them from liability. The bill today won Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee approval.

Under the current “Overdose Prevention Act,” healthcare practitioners and pharmacists are protected from liability when prescribing, dispensing, or administering an opioid overdose antidote. This bill, A-3720, expands the list of people authorized to administer an opioid antidote and provides them immunity from liability, including sterile syringe access program employees, law enforcement officials, emergency medical technicians, and other emergency responders. In addition to heroin, opioids include drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and codeine.“Heroin overdoses can take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes to turn deadly. Every second counts when reacting to an overdose situation,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset, who is a registered nurse. “Allowing more first responders and other professionals to administer this critical first aid without fear of legal repercussions will help prevent more unnecessary tragedies.”

“Our first responders need the necessary tools to save lives when time is of the essence,” explained O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth. “We don’t want them worried about liability when someone’s life is on the line. This bill will afford them the ability to treat those in need without second guessing themselves and risking catastrophe.”

A recent national trend of rising heroin overdose deaths across demographic groups has been reflected in New Jersey. Last year, more than 500 residents died from heroin overdoses – nearly double the number reported in 2010.The measure also authorizes needle exchange programs to obtain a standing order permitting their employees to carry/dispense opioid antidotes, and provide overdose prevention information to clients.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have implemented laws making it easier for responders to give life saving antidotes to reverse overdoses.

MUÑOZ BILL THAT ADDRESSES HEROIN EPIDEMIC CONTINUES TO ADVANCE

Legislation Deputy Republican Leader Nancy Muñoz sponsors to combat New Jersey’s heroin crisis continues to advance. The measure won approval today from the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee in June.

The bill, A-783/A-2831, implements a recommendation from the July 2013 report from the State Commission on Investigation titled “Scenes from an Epidemic: A Report on the SCI’s Investigation of Prescription Pill and Heroin Abuse.” It increases the penalties for manufacturing, distributing, and dispensing heroin by reducing the amount of heroin necessary to be charged for first, second and third-degree offenses.“It’s a frightening epidemic that crosses racial, geographic and socioeconomic lines,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “We need to update our statutes to reflect reality. Current law allows individuals arrested for heroin offenses to avoid the most serious drug charges. That, along with convenience and low cost, is feeding this crisis. It’s time to make the punishment fit the crime.”

Since the seriousness of drug crimes is currently measured by the amount or weight of the controlled dangerous substance, the distribution of heroin and cocaine carry the same penalty. Heroin, however, provides more pharmacological effect from a given weight than does cocaine. As a result, the amounts of heroin consumed by an average user and carried by an average dealer are far lower than those involving cocaine, therefore, those who manufacture or distribute heroin are treated more leniently than those who distribute cocaine.

Under Muñoz’ bill, the threshold for a first-degree offense would be lowered from five ounces to 2.5 ounces or more of heroin. It carries a prison term of 10 to 20 years, up to a $500,000 fine, or both. In addition, a mandatory minimum term may be imposed, fixed at, or between, one-third and one-half of the sentence imposed with no eligibility for parole.

For a second-degree offense the threshold quantity would be reduced to 0.17 ounces or more, but less than 2.5 ounces of heroin. It is punishable by imprisonment for five to 10 years, up to a $150,000 fine, or both.

A third-degree offense would require a threshold quantity of less than 0.17 ounces and is punishable by three to five years in prison, up to a $75,000 fine, or both.

MUÑOZ BILL THAT ADDRESSES HEROIN CRISIS ADVANCES

The Assembly Judiciary Committee has unanimously passed legislation sponsored by Deputy Republican Leader Nancy Muñoz to combat the heroin epidemic facing New Jersey.

The bill, A-783/A-2831, implements a recommendation from the July 2013 report from the State Commission on Investigation titled “Scenes from an Epidemic: A Report on the SCI’s Investigation of Prescription Pill and Heroin Abuse.” It increases the penalties for manufacturing, distributing, and dispensing heroin by reducing the amount of heroin necessary to be charged for first, second and third-degree offenses.“It’s a frightening epidemic that crosses racial, geographic and socioeconomic lines,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “We need to give law enforcement officials the tools they need to prosecute criminals who are spreading heroin in our local communities.”

A report released in April by the Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use by New Jersey’s Youth and Young Adults identified heroin abuse as “the number one health care crisis” confronting the state.

“Heroin is a cheaper but more potent alternative that drug dealers are using to meet the growing demand for opiates and avoid the more serious criminal penalties,” said Muñoz. “If we are going rid our communities of heroin abuse, it’s time we make the punishment fit the crime.”

Current law measures the seriousness of the crime by the weight of the controlled substances involved. Equivalent weights or quantities of heroin and cocaine are treated identically under the law, which ignores the difference between how those two drugs are used. The amounts of heroin consumed by an average user and carried by an average dealer are far lower than those involving cocaine.

Under the bill, the threshold for a first-degree offense would be lowered from five ounces to 2.5 ounces or more of heroin. It carries a prison term of 10 to 20 years, up to a $500,000 fine, or both. In addition, a mandatory minimum term may be imposed, fixed at, or between, one-third and one-half of the sentence imposed with no eligibility for parole.

For a second-degree offense the threshold quantity would be reduced to 0.17 ounces or more, but less than 2.5 ounces of heroin. It is punishable by imprisonment for five to 10 years, up to a $150,000 fine, or both.

A third-degree offense would require a threshold quantity of less than 0.17 ounces and is punishable by three to five years in prison, up to a $75,000 fine, or both.