CA Supreme Court: Furnishing Drug Use Not Necessarily ‘Personally Inflicting’ Overdose; Changes Enhancement Penalties

By Koda Slingluff

LOS ANGELES, CA – Treyvon Love Ollo’s girlfriend Reina was 16 when he texted her that he had cocaine. She came over, snorted the powder, and fell asleep by his side. But the next morning, he woke to find her body cold and stiff. The cocaine had contained fentanyl, and Reina had died.

After hearing Ollo’s case, the CA Supreme Court has now issued a statement on the case People v. Ollo, establishing that drug furnishing does not always denote a personal infliction of harm, contrary to what the law is now in the state.

The court opinion, authored by Justice Goodwin Liu, explained that someone who greatly harms someone other than an accomplice while committing a felony receives three additional years of imprisonment.

But the opinion changes that. The court’s decision sets precedent for future personal infliction of harm enhancements to be determined case-by-case.

Now, a judge cannot immediately add an enhancement for drug furnishing which results in harm. For people like Ollo, this could shorten their prison time significantly.

Ollo was convicted in 2018 for furnishing a controlled substance to a minor. Legally speaking, “furnishing” is the act of making something available. Furnishing a controlled substance means making the substance available for someone’s use.

Additionally, he was found to have personally inflicted great bodily harm on the minor while committing the crime. For this, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison, nine for the furnishing and three for the harm to someone while committing a felony.

There were two key aspects of his sentencing, affirmed at the court of appeals, which Justice Liu highlighted in his review.

The first was the stance that an overdose as a result of drug furnishing counts as great bodily injury. The second was that the person who furnished the drug had personally inflicted harm on the victim of the overdose.

When Ollo initially went to trial for Reina’s death, his defense attorney argued that Ollo did not personally inflict harm on her. The court concluded that this argument was not supported in People v. Martinez (2014), where a defendant had handed drugs to a woman who ingested them and died.

As Liu quotes in his opinion, the court had told Ollo, “If your argument is going to be [Ollo] gave [Reina] the drugs — if you believe he gave her the drugs, he’s not responsible because she voluntarily took them, I don’t think that can be done because I think it’s in contravention to [Martinez].”

Ollo faced similar views in appellate court, where the court said, “drug dealers are liable for
additional prison time whenever the persons to whom they furnish drugs are subjected to great bodily injury due to their drug use.”

Justice Liu acknowledged that Ollo’s case did not directly challenge the “great bodily injury” aspect of his sentencing. However, Liu disagreed that every drug furnishing case could be considered a personal infliction of harm.

“A fact-specific inquiry is required to determine whether a defendant personally inflicted great bodily injury where such injury resulted from ingestion of the furnished drugs,” Liu stated.

To elaborate on this, Liu analyzed the meaning of the term “personally inflict.” The word ‘personally’ means ‘relating to oneself’ or, “involving ‘the actual or immediate presence or action of the individual person…’” ‘To inflict’ as a verb means ‘to cause something’ damaging or painful.

Together, he said, these words indicate that someone has directly (not through an intermediary) caused something damaging to happen.

This term’s meaning is hazier in a drug furnishing case, though. A person makes a drug available to someone. After the drug is ingested, that person may become injured. The harm, in this case, was not immediate, and was not clearly causing damage. In a sense, it was neither personal nor inflicted.

The supreme court opinion used other cases to outline that a precedent had not been set to warrant Ollo’s three additional years in prison. Liu brought up Martinez, the case cited in Ollo’s first hearing, as well as People v. Slough (2017).

In Slough, the defendant had sold heroin which the victim then independently chose to inject. The victim died of an overdose. The court in this case concluded that the defendant had not personally inflicted harm on the victim.

This court distinguished the case from Martinez, where the defendant had repeatedly supplied drugs to the victim while observing her inebriation.

Unlike Martinez, in Slough, “the defendant provided drugs but played no role in the victim’s ingestion.” Because of this, the defendant was not deemed to have inflicted great bodily injury.

To determine if a drug furnishing is a personal infliction of harm, Liu said, we have to determine if the furnishing was “akin to administering.”

“When a defendant administers the drugs without the victim’s consent, the defendant has participated in the injury-causing act and thus may be held liable for personal infliction of the overdose. Where a defendant simply provides drugs to a user who subsequently overdoses, the defendant facilitates but does not personally inflict the overdose,” the Justices’ opinion states.

The opinion concluded by reversing the previous judgements about Ollo, explaining that, “the voluntariness of a victim’s ingestion is a key consideration in the determination of whether a defendant personally inflicts great bodily injury in the drug furnishing context.”

Koda is a junior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Rhetoric. He is from Ventura, CA.





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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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