Louisiana Sets Max Sentence For Repeat Heroin Dealers to 99 Years

By Shawn Dwyer 05/15/14

State Republicans did an end-around to the right of Attila the Hun by proposing draconian punishment for repeat offenders.

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Joe Lopinto. Photo via

On Thursday, Louisiana state Republicans led by Rep. Joseph Lopinto (R-Metairie) voted to advance legislation that would punish repeat heroin dealers by sentencing them to prison for a maximum of 99 years.

Lopinto angered Democrats by backing the draconian penalties in Senate Bill 87, supported by Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge), instead of the less stringent penalties in Lopinto’s own House Bill 332, which only called for doubling penalties from five to 10 years for distribution.

During debate on the bill, Democrats lined up to scorch Lopinto for going back on his word. Rep. Patricia Smith (D-Baton Rouge) was arguably the most measured in her comments.

“We did our darndest to try to change that. It just bothers me that now just because of what they feel is a rise in heroin that we have to go to such stringent rules,” Smith said. “That’s my major concern, and I’m not going to be able to support that.”

Other Democrats were less congenial and pointed out the fact that murderers and rapists would receive less time in prison than a heroin dealer on their second conviction. “You can kill someone in the state of Louisiana and be better off than dealing heroin? I have a serious problem with this bill,” said State Rep. Ted James (D-Baton Rouge).

“If you want to be against his bill, be against his bill,” said Lopinto finally to Rep. Barbara Norton (D-Shreveport), as she excoriated him for reneging on their agreement.

The bill passed the House by a 54-33 vote.

In the end, Lopinto appeared unconcerned about his sleight of hand and felt that the bill would decrease heroin use in the state. “We did a pretty good thing today,” he said.

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.