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A Better Partnership
June 20, 2012

COA Opinion: Delivery of heroin only constitutes aggravated use of a weapon if the drug is used to attack the victim

The Court of Appeals reversed a trial court's sentencing in People v. Ball, holding that the trial court improperly sentenced the defendant for use of a weapon in a heroin transaction. In this case, the defendant delivered half of a gram of heroin to the victim who thereafter overdosed on the drug. The prosecutor requested, and the trial court agreed, that the defendant be scored 20 points for aggravated use of a weapon under the sentencing guidelines because he subjected the victim to a harmful chemical substance. The Court of Appeals disagreed. It held that while there is no question that heroin is a harmful chemical substance, it was not used to attack the victim, so it could not be considered a weapon in this instance. The Court did not rule out the possibility that heroin could be used as a weapon; for example, one could forcibly inject heroin into a victim for the purpose of killing them by means of a heroin overdose. However, in this case, the Court explained that the defendant took part in an 'ordinary, albeit illegal, consensual drug transaction,' rather than attacking the victim with the heroin. Accordingly, the Court held that the defendant was inappropriately sentenced for use of a weapon and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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