Frequently Asked Questions About “Taylor’s Law”


Frequently Asked Questions About “Taylor’s Law


  • Q: What is “Taylor’s Law”?
    • A: “Taylor’s Law” requires a prison sentence in homicide cases that result from a drug overdose.
  •  Q: Why was “Taylor’s Law” proposed?
    • A: Because Oregon currently has a hole that allows convicted drug dealers to skirt prison sentences even after someone dies. There is often little to no accountability.
  • Q: Right now, what type of punishment could a person get if it’s found their drugs caused someone’s death?
    • A: Probation. Oregon doesn’t have a law to enhance the punishment for someone who delivers a controlled substance that results in someone’s death.
  • Q: Are drug overdose deaths going up in Oregon?
    • A: Oregon saw a 4.2% increase [1] in the number of overdose deaths from 2016-2017. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[2] reported more than 500 drug overdose deaths statewide.
  • Q: So, “Taylor’s Law” is going to charge drug offenders with murder?
    • A: No. “Taylor’s Law” has nothing to do with murder, which is defined under ORS 163.115[3]. A murder conviction carries a sentence of life in prison with a mandatory 25 years before a person is eligible to apply for parole.
  • Q: What type of prison time could someone face is “Taylor’s Law” is passed?
    • A: A mandatory of 58 to 130 months in prison.
  • Q: How many other states have something similar to “Taylor’s Law?”
    • A: “Taylor’s Law” shouldn’t be compared to laws in other states because each state writes its own laws that are customized for that state’s needs. “Taylors’ Law” has been written narrowly to specifically meet the needs of Oregon. Some states have much more aggressive overdose death laws than what “Taylor’s Law” proposes. In general, however, according to media reports[4], at least 20 states have already passed overdose death laws.
  • Q: How many other states are considering something similar to “Taylor’s Law” this year?
    • A: Media reports[5] suggest lawmakers in four other states, not including Oregon, are currently reviewing similar laws.
  • Q: Without “Taylor’s Law,” what message is being sent to criminals and the crime victims? 
    • A: Right now, Oregon law allows drug dealers to continue without any significant consequences, and it fails the families of those killed in a drug overdose.
  • Q: Won’t this law just give the state power to prosecute people with a drug addiction?
    • A: No one who supports “Taylor’s Law” wants to target people who are drug affected and in the throes of addiction. This proposal is for the people who are making a living off people with addiction and making a living off people who die using drugs.
  • Q: How is this law different than what was happening to people caught in the “war on drugs” in the past?
    • A: “Taylor’s Law” is not intended to be a ‘get tough’ on addicts law. Its purpose to hold top-tier drug dealers accountable for knowingly selling and distributing drugs that result in death.
  • Q: How can a drug offender “profit” off someone’s death?
    • A: When word gets out that someone has died because of using drugs, law enforcement has found that the demand for that specific product swells and it’s known on the street as “the good stuff.”
  • Q: What type of resources are available to low-level drug users?
    • A: Each county will have different resources. In Multnomah County, District Attorney Rod Underhill was the first prosecutor in Oregon to bring in the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD®) Program, which aims to divert low-level drug users from the criminal justice system. DA Underhill then created the Treatment First Program that allows successful participants to exit the criminal justice system with their drug case dismissed after participating and completing treatment. Multnomah County has robust addiction treatment services available through the County Health Department.
  •  Q: Will this actually serve as a deterrent?
    • A: Yes. That is the expectation with “Taylor’s Law.” If passed, our system-based partners like the courts and treatment providers could warn people that if they continue down this path of selling drugs, they could be exposing themselves to significant prison time.
  • Q: What happens if two drug-affected individuals are together and one of them overdoses?
    • A: Oregon law recognizes this scenario and provides immunity from certain drug-related offenses when a person calls for emergency medical assistance. While “delivery of a controlled substance” does not fall under the immunity statute, law enforcement would attempt to work with the person who called 9-1-1 to identify the upper tier drug suppliers in an effort to hold the highest level drug supplier responsible for the overdose death.  The burden on the state remains proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Q: Won’t “Taylor’s Law” cause our prisons to become overcrowded with drug offenders?
    • A: No. “Taylor’s Law” was written narrowly so it can only be used once the state has proven that the person convicted provided the drug that resulted in the death.
  • Q: What happens if person passes someone else some heroin and that person dies, will that person be on the hook for 58 to 130 months in prison?
    • A: Potentially. But, law enforcement and district attorneys recognize how complex drug operations are. In many cases, the person doing the actual hand-to-hand exchange, isn’t the leader of a drug trafficking organization. “Taylor’s Law” targets the leaders of these organizations.
  • Q: Won’t this law just be used to ‘make an example’ out of low-level drug dealers, the people who are struggling with addiction?
    • A:  No. District attorneys have an ethical duty to make sure that criminal cases are appropriately charged. All district attorneys will review aggravating and mitigating factors when considering charges and when discussing potential pretrial resolutions.
  • Q: Aren’t drug deaths preventable? Why should the criminal justice system even be involved?
    • A: Yes, they are. Ensuring community members have access to treatment services that address the underlying medical conditions of addition and then providing that person with proper support in order to reduce recidivism is best way to prevent a drug overdose death. However, in situations where a person continuously makes money off addicts and then contributes to their death, there must be accountability for that person.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/states/oregon/oregon.htm

[3] https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/163.115

[4] https://progressive.org/magazine/my-whole-life-is-gone/

[5] https://wtvr.com/2019/02/26/legislation-passed-by-house-senate-will-charge-drug-distributors-with-homicide-if-their-clients-fatally-overdose/