View:Susan's October 2016 Newsletter
April 5, 2018
Representative Gifford supports stronger penalties for opioid trafficking, assaulting a police officer
BOSTON – State Representative Susan Williams Gifford, R-Wareham, is hailing the passage of a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill that strengthens the state’s opioid laws, makes it a felony to assault a police officer, and creates a statewide database for tracking sexual assault evidence kits.
Representative Gifford voted to support the omnibus legislation, which was approved by the House and Senate on April 4 and represents a compromise between two earlier versions of the crime bill passed by both legislative branches last fall. The bill is now on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk awaiting his signature.
“The opioid addiction crisis and resulting senseless deaths caused by overdoses is an issue of great importance to me and many of my constituents,” said Rep. Gifford. “I am pleased that this bill contains specific and severe consequences for those who are distributing the most deadly synthetic opioids, fentanyl and carfentanil. While we need to do more to enable those who need and want help for their addiction, we also must get these drugs off the streets and punish the dealers.”
The bill provides for the reclassification of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug that was present in 83 percent of all opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts in 2017, as a Class A substance. It also adds carfentanil and U-47700 – also known as “pink death,” which is 4 to 8 times more potent than heroin – to this same category. State Representative Timothy R. Whelan (R-Brewster), a former Massachusetts State
Police Sergeant, has been advocating for the new classifications to help address the state’s opioid epidemic.
The bill also creates a fentanyl trafficking penalty for 10 grams of fentanyl or any of its derivatives, punishable by a 3 ½ year mandatory minimum sentence with a maximum penalty of 20 years. The same penalties will also apply to trafficking in carfentanil, regardless of the amount involved. In addition, the bill provides for the automatic adoption of the federal scheduling for opioid drugs, unless the Legislature acts directly on a particular substance, so Massachusetts’ laws can remain current as law enforcement identifies new drugs that are being trafficked.
The criminal justice reform bill contains a series of Republican-sponsored initiatives, including language making it a felony to commit assault and battery with bodily injury on a police officer while performing their official duties. Sponsored by Representative Paul Frost (R-Auburn), the language creates a new mandatory minimum prison sentence of one year and a maximum of 10 years. Offenders will also face a potential fine of between $500 and $10,000.
The bill also takes steps to empower crime victims by directing the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) to establish a statewide sexual assault evidence kit tracking system, which will allow victims of sexual assault to anonymously track their kits. Sponsored by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading), the proposal also requires all existing untested kits associated with a reported crime to be submitted for testing.
Other Republican initiatives contained in the bill include:
- A proposal by Representative Joseph McKenna (R-Webster) requiring that a finding of “not guilty by reason of insanity” be disclosed on a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) report;
- Representative Jones’ proposal allowing judges to hold individuals facing a third OUI charge if it occurs within 10 years of a prior OUI conviction, a change that was made after a recent SJC case declared the wording of the existing law to be ambiguous;
- A proposal by Representative David Muradian (R-Grafton) to expand witness intimidation protections to include victim witness advocates, correction officers, court reporters and court interpreters; and
- Additional language filed by Representative Muradian to establish a special commission that will develop recommendations for preventing suicides among the state’s corrections officers and providing mental health services to these individuals, with a report due by December 31, 2018.
Governor Baker has until April 14 to sign the bill into law.
A Message from Susan
Thank you for visiting my online district office! I developed this website to help you connect to your government, and hope that you find it a useful informational tool.
From my efforts on the local level as a Wareham Selectwoman to my current tenure as State Representative for the 2nd Plymouth District, I have worked hard over the years to address the needs of area communities and look forward to continuing to do so for years to come.
As always, please feel free to contact me with any issue or concern you may have, and many thanks for your continued support.
To help youth constituents learn about the State House and the legislative process, Susan hosts students from the Wareham Middle School on a tour of the state capitol building. more photos >>