Kentucky drug court offering recovery in place of jail time

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One man is working to keep his life intact after felony charges of heroin and drug paraphernalia possession and Greenup County, Kentucky might have the second chance he needs. 13 News is choosing not to give his name or show his face.

Court records show that the defendant, in a panic rushed from his nearby home to the Russell Police Department and told them he and another person had just shot up heroin. He also told police he actually injected the other person with heroin and he was over dosing, dying and needed help immediately.

“EMS was called and were thankfully able to revive the person,” said Kentucky Commonwealth Attorney Mel Leonhart.

In court today, the commonwealth attorney said the defendant just started using heroin a few months ago, and his pleas for medical treatment and drug court diversion, instead of possible years in jail, are being heard.

“He’s not a long time user, and my preliminary investigation into his background shows no prior record at all,” Leonhart said.

This is one of many select defendants on the Greenup County rocket docket, where the State’s prosecutor steps in early with a sentence offer, instead of going through months-on-end of lengthy county court proceedings, and vast amounts of taxpayer jail funding.

“It allows the process to go faster, protects the rights of the defendants, and saves the county significant amounts of money,” Judge Brian McCloud said.

Leonhart said his people estimate the cost of jailing the defendants in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This defendant’s case is also textbook for a new Kentucky law specific to heroin overdoses and treatment, he said.

“If you seek medical attention for a drug overdose, you cannot be charged by police with drug or paraphernalia possession,” he said.

The prosecutor said the defendant will likely face amended wanton endangerment chargers for injecting heroin into another – but will remain a solid candidate for drug court.

“I’ve had people say, ‘Send me to prison. I don’t want to go to drug court. It’s too hard,’ instead of sitting in jail sucking the life out of everybody who pays taxes.

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