Austin’s Law was put into effect on April 31st. The purpose is to press serious penalties on those involved in fentanyl related deaths, aiming to curb the alarming rise in opioid-related fatalities.

The Burke County Sheriff’s arrest was the first one in the state of Georgia under the new Austin’s Law. It comes after an investigation of John Paul Cates’ death in Waynesboro.

It first started with arresting Charlie Wren Daniel.

“We arrested her, obtained information through her arrest that led us to the Philips man, found a relationship that it was related to the investigation with Paul Cates and that led us to charging them with Austin’s Law,” said Colonel Jimmy Wylds of the Burke County Sheriff’s Office.

The hope? For this law to combat the opioid epidemic in our country.

Wylds says, “If we can stop one person from selling it you know how many people does that save, how many people are they selling to.”

Professionals who work with victims of drug abuse say anything that attempts to deter distribution will help.

 “Anything we can do to try to mitigate the flow and stem the tide of what’s happening not only in Georgia but across the nation and in other parts of the world is going to have a positive effect, now only time will tell when we track data and see whether the law that’s been enacted whether or whether not that does have a great impact, but it’s always best to have something as a deterrent,” said Serenity Behavioral Health Clinical Director, John Moore.

Families who have been impacted by the negative effects of fentanyl are hopeful this new law will bring justice for their lost loved one.

Like Bryan Lugo, who lost his stepson, Alex King, in 2020 from fentanyl poisoning. Lugo tried to charge the person who gave king the pill that killed him, but the trial ended with a plea bargain.

Lugo says the new Austin’s Law will help as long as prosecutors prosecute to the fullest extent

Lugo says, “This just got signed in so if prosecutors don’t prosecute, this is ceremonial at best. So hopefully if Burke County I believe is the one that’s trying to prosecute the two individuals for that, let’s hope that that prosecutor is courageous to go ahead and fight and actually get a conviction because the conviction is the only way you’ll start getting deterrence.”

Lugo says if Austin’s Law does start to have an impact with prosecutions going through, it will start to help families impacted by fentanyl related deaths.

“I think it will bring justice, in this situation you have a loss that you can never get back, we can never get Alex replaced. Colin was sentenced, there was no acknowledgment that there was a death in the actual sentence, he served 14 months in prison, he’s out right now. We can just try to move on and try to be a voice for Alex and try to keep his memory there,” said Lugo.

If Charlie Wren Daniel and John Ryan Phillips in Burke county are convicted in Burke County are convicted they face anywhere from 10 to 30 years under Austin’s law on top of existing felony charges.

Copyright 2024 WFXG. All rights reserved.