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Allegheny County DA's office calls for stiffer sentences in fentanyl crimes

Megan Guza
| Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, 5:03 p.m.
Allegheny County's longtime district attorney, Stephen Zappala Jr.
Allegheny County's longtime district attorney, Stephen Zappala Jr.

The Allegheny County District Attorney's office sent representatives to Harrisburg on Wednesday to push for stiffer sentences against those convicted of crimes involving the deadly opioid painkiller fentanyl.

The Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing held a public hearing to discuss an amendment to the state's sentencing guidelines, including a proposal from District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. to add more weight to crimes involving fentanyl, according to Mike Manko, a spokesman for the DA's office.

“With the number of lives being lost to overdoses and the number of families impacted, it is paramount on all of the agencies that make up law enforcement and the courts to work in as swift and thorough a manner as we can to put a stop to what is happening on streets and in homes throughout Pennsylvania,” Manko said.

Zappala's proposal would increase what's known as the offense gravity score for fentanyl-related crimes. In Pennsylvania, each offense is assigned a gravity score. The more serious the offense, the higher the score. The higher the score, the stiffer the sentence.

The proposal would give fentanyl-related offenses a higher score than heroin-related offenses.

The proposal noted the substantial increase in fentanyl-related deaths. In Allegheny County, such deaths have gone from none in 2013 to 63 in 2014, 126 in 2015 and 412 last year.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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