Sykes Sees Problems With Legislation Expanding Criminal Offenses
Akron lawmaker says bill disproportionately affects minority communities, conflicts with recent opioid law

State Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes today expressed concern that a House-passed measure to expand the offense of involuntary manslaughter conflicts with recently enacted laws and will likely have an unintended negative impact, especially on minority communities in Ohio.

 House Bill (HB) 270, passed by the House this afternoon, would expand the offense of involuntary manslaughter to include causing or contributing to another’s death by selling, dispensing, or administering a controlled substance. 

“We saw what happened in the 1980s and early ‘90s when states took a knee-jerk approach to combatting drug epidemics by being so-called ‘tough on crime’,” said Sykes. “While this bill may have good intentions, I believe it will likely exacerbate racial inequities in our criminal justice system and put Ohioans struggling with substance abuse behind bars instead of getting them the treatment they need.” 

As passed, HB 270 leaves the door open to more Ohioans struggling with addiction being sent to jail rather than guided to treatment. The bill could also have a chilling effect on drug user’s calling 9-1-1 when a friend overdoses because they worry they will be prosecuted – the exact opposite of what Ohio intended when lawmakers passed and the governor signed the recent Good Samaritan law. 

“HB 270 and the Good Samaritan law are opposite measures – they do not work together at all,” said Sykes. “This bill is a prime example of how Ohio lacks a strategic, unified approach to fighting the statewide opioid emergency. Our left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and all the while more Ohio families are losing loved ones to drug abuse and overdoses at a historic rate.” 

Sykes and Democratic lawmakers have called for a more strategic and unified approach in combatting Ohio’s statewide opioid crisis.   

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