House approves bill to hold drug dealers accountable for overdose deaths

By Emily Ketterer

INDIANAPOLIS—Drug dealers would face tougher criminal charges if a customer fatally overdoses on their product under a bill that cleared the Indiana House Monday.

House Bill 1359, approved by an 85-12 vote, highlights the higher-level felonies drug dealers could face if one of their customers dies as a result of using their drug.

Author of the bill, Rep. Gregory Steuerwald, R-Avon, said dealers are lacing their drugs with fentanyl, which can cause more deaths, and he said the dealers need to be held responsible.

“They are boosting the limit for the highest of highs, and at that point they are starting a fine line between the highest of highs and something that results in death,” Steuerwald said.

Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, said House Bill 1359 would do more harm than good as an attempt to reduce drug dealing activity. Photo by Emily Ketterer,

Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington spoke in opposition to the bill saying it would do more harm than good.

“So now when you say, ‘hey what are you doing about this opioid epidemic? When are you going to stop all the deaths?’” Pierce said. “Now you can puff your chest out and say, ‘those drug dealers are going to jail. We put these tough sentences out there, and now these dealers are going to know not to deal drugs.’”

He specifically cited a study that said, based on the statistics collected, the higher rates of drug related imprisonment did not translate to lower drug use or overdose deaths.

“If our hope is by decreasing penalties dramatically, it will result in the decline of drug dealing, it’s not going to work. It’s just not supported by the scientific data,” Pierce said.

Steuerwald said the government does a good job at looking at the demand side of controlled subtances, but it’s time to look at the supply side.

The bill will now go to the Senate.

Emily Ketterer is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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