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16 suspected overdose deaths in Minot in 2021

Submitted Photo Pictured are drugs seized by the Berthold Police Department when they arrested Dwight Allen Canady Jr., of Williston, who has been charged with possession with intent to deliver fentanyl and methamphetamine in district court in Minot.

Illegal drugs have continued to plague the Minot in 2021 and have been a contributing factor to a number of court cases.

Capt. Dale Plessas, investigation commander with the Minot Police Department, said there have been a total of 83 drug overdose cases in the city this year and 16 suspected overdose deaths. That is roughly on a par with the number of overdose cases and overdose deaths last year. Minot police reported more than 90 drug overdoses as of Dec. 17, 2021, and 16 overdose deaths. Drug overdoses had increased by a factor of more than five times between 2019 and 2020. Police reported 31 drug overdoses in 2019 and three overdose deaths that year.

“In terms of specific drugs responsible for overdose deaths, fentanyl is suspected in 12 of the 16 deaths (in 2021),” said Plessas. “We continue to see fentanyl taking a strong hold in our community as well as in the rest of the country. Commonly, we see fentanyl being pressed into counterfeit prescription pills such as oxycontin.

“In active overdose cases, Narcan continues to be our best life saving measure. Our officers maintain Narcan to administer in emergencies. This year our officers have administered Narcan at least 39 times. We have also seen an increase in privately administered Narcan saving lives. We recognize that most lasting protection against overdose is breaking the chain of addiction. Our officers work with Northcentral Human Services to provide addictions resources to every victim of overdose that we encounter. “

Ward County State’s Attorney Roza Larson said drug charges in the North Central District Court seem to be similar to last year.

Some people charged with drug offenses might be eligible for Adult Drug Court, a treatment oriented, court-supervised program for people whose problems are mainly caused by substance use disorders.

Larson said defense attorneys initiate applications for Adult Drug Court.

“An application is filled out and sent to our office,” said Larson in an email to the Minot Daily News. “I vet them to be sure they meet the pre-qualifiers (history of drug charges, no prior violent offense convictions etc.) Once they have met the qualifications, I send the application on to our team. They obtain a (chemical dependency) evaluation and meet with probation for assessment. The team then meets and discusses whether or not the person is appropriate for drug court. In recent time at least the only time somebody has been denied is due to prior violent convictions. There have been some applications that have been forwarded, but for whatever reason the applicant doesn’t follow through with getting the evaluation or complete the assessment. Over all our numbers for drug court have not been that bad. We can have 25 in drug court. We are usually right around 20.”

Larson said prosecutors can bring more severe charges in cases where a drug overdose death results in a death that is directly a result of the defendant’s conduct.

“That raises the level of the offense from a Class B felony to a Class A felony,” said Larson. “The key to this type of enhancement is being able to link the drugs the person overdosed on to an identified person that delivered the drugs to the deceased. Law enforcement does their best to try to identify the source. I do know there are some that are under investigation at this time, but I do not know if there will be sufficient evidence to charge the enhancement.”

Larson said this is not a charge under the state’s Homicide statutes, but is an aggravating factor under a different statute. There is no minimum mandatory sentence that applies to delivery of drugs or to the enhanced sentence.

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