As deaths from heroin and opioid overdoses are on the rise, government officials have been scrambling to do whatever they can to bring an end to the epidemic. One solution offered has been to bring up murder charges against those who provide the a person with a drug that takes their life. So in California, can you be charged with giving someone drugs if they die from using that dose?
When looking at these charges, there are two parties involved that could be charged with murder -the dealer and a fellow-user. In cases involving users who give someone drugs that end up as a fatal dose, there are a lot of drawbacks to charging the survivor with a crime. Critics of this practice warn that it will discourage people from calling 9-11 when they see an overdose and that we should be trying to help drug addicts rather than punish them.
While some states have ignored these arguments and started charging drug users with murder if they help administer or provide a deadly dose to someone, California has so far resisted this course of action. In fact, most drug defense attorneys believe that doing so will weaken the state’s good Samaritan overdose law that offers to protect drug users who call 9-11 during an overdose, which could result in even more deaths.
On the other hand, drug dealers (who are not protected by good Samaritan laws) can be charged with homicide and/or murder in some cases. In fact, a doctor operating a so-called “pill mill” was recently charged with murder after three of his patients died from overdoses. These types of charges are still incredibly rare though. In the case of the doctor, she was warned three times about the overdose deaths of patients and she still continued writing excessive opioid prescriptions, which is why she was charged with murder.
Most drug dealers will not be charged with murder unless they knowingly distributed an impure drug that could easily result in death. That being said, manslaughter charges can be brought up against those who have no malicious intent but did something potentially reckless -and dealing drugs like heroin certainly meets these requirements. Giving someone drugs that result in a fatal overdose can be involuntary manslaughter if was dangerous to human life or safety based on the specific circumstances involved. While manslaughter is not as serious as murder, anyone accused of this crime still needs to speak with a criminal attorney as soon as possible.
Remember, anything you say to the police could be used against you, which is why you should immediately call an attorney as soon as you believe you may be charged with a crime. If you are aware that someone you supplied drugs to passed on from a drug overdose, please call (760) 643-4050 to set up a free initial consultation to discuss your situation.
Creative Commons Image by Dimitris Kalogeropoylos