Sullivan County District Attorney wants to change state law to crack down on drug dealers

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For the first time in Bristol, Tennessee, police are charging a drug dealer with second-degree murder.

It's part of a county wide effort to hold drug dealers responsible for the overdoses their drugs cause.

Police say they found enough evidence to connect Calvin Campbell Junior to the fatal overdose of his niece.

They say they found fentanyl in her system and traced it back to Campbell.

In addition to second-degree murder, he's also charged with delivery of fentanyl and tampering with evidence.

The department hopes arresting dealers will cut back on opioid deaths.

"The goal of trying to identify the dealer is to reduce the number of opioid deaths, which is the big thing in the country right now," said Captain Terry Johnson, of the Bristol Police Department. "It's the first step in trying to lower our overdose deaths in Sullivan County."

However, Campbell's case is unique.

Under state law, if someone overdoses and there is evidence of only one illicit or prescription drug in the deceased's system, second-degree murder charges can be filed if the drug is traced back to a dealer.

That's what led to the arrest of Campbell.

But police say most overdoses involve several different drugs.

That means even if police trace all the drugs back to dealers, police can't charge the dealers with second-degree murder because of a loophole in the law.

"If the case involves a multi-drug toxicity, the DA's office is left with trying to charge the dealer with a lower charge, like reckless endangerment or reckless homicide," said Capt. Johnson. "Our district attorney in Sullivan County has been lobbying with the state legislature to try and close that loophole in the law."

District Attorney Barry Staubus is pushing legislatures to pass a bill that would allow police to charge dealers in multi-drug cases as severely as single-drug cases.

He says Sullivan County had 37 overdose deaths last year, and only four of those deaths had one drug in the deceased's system.

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