After rash of PVD overdoses, new questions over ‘Kristen’s Law’

A Providence Police investigation over a rash of overdoses in the city has some in the recovery community crying foul, believing ‘Kristen’s Law’ is doing way more harm than good for those looking to get help.

The law was signed last year and it could land a drug dealer behind bars for life for giving a fatal dose of drugs to a victim.

A major push back on the law is expected to try and get Kristen’s Law off the books. 

Prosecutors and police say it’s only used to catch big-time drug dealers that try selling the strongest stuff, but medical experts and others in the recovery community believe that having a murder charge hanging over someone’s head will actually lead o more deaths.

Since becoming law, Providence Police Major David Lapatin said they investigate each overdose as they normally would, however, he said there are slight changes.

“Treat each overdose as you were at a homicide scene because that could be the outcome, so we can’t treat it any less,” Lapatin said. “We’re looking at the dealers.”

Police are in charge of investigating the incidents but the decision to charge someone under Kristen’s Law ultimately comes down to the Attorney General’s Office.

“That law should be used where the person who is selling narcotics is a significant drug trafficker,” said Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha. 

Neronha said that Kristen’s Law has had success so far, but adds that it will only be used under special circumstances. 

“[The dealer] doesn’t know the victims of his narcotics trafficking, doesn’t care about those victims,” Neronha said.

But Dr. Jody Rich, an expert adviser on the Governor’s opioid task force, said it’s a law that should have never been passed.

He said it’s doing harm, in part because it’s changing the way police approach overdoses, like the ones this month in Providence.

“It puts police in a very difficult position,” he said. “Is this a crime scene or is this a medical emergency?”

And because of the potential of a murder charge, Dr.


Rich believes the death toll will actually climb.

“You tell people to call 911, but if they feel like ‘oh my goodness I may get charged with murder,’ they might not call 911,” he said. “It’s driving people away from treatment and that’s going to lead to more people dying.”

So far, only one person out of Newport has been charged under Kristen’s Law. Cary Pacheco was indicted and could spend the rest of his life behind bars.