Michael A. Gottlieb, P.A. - Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer

Sharing drugs can lead to murder charges

In 2016, there were 63,600 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. according to the CDC. This was three times higher than in 1999. As these types of deaths continue to mount, prosecutors treat each death as if it were part of a crime scene and they are looking to hold someone criminally responsible.

Friends, acquaintances and family members of the deceased may now find themselves charged for the homicide of an overdose victim. Sharing drugs at a party or a family member who provides drugs to a parent who ran out of pain medication could be prosecuted if those drugs cause a death. Those charged with murder due to an overdose may have been very close to the victim and are usually struggling with addiction themselves.

What is the definition of a drug dealer?

Prosecuting people for an overdose death has been justified as one tool in a box that also includes prevention and treatment. Providing drugs is enough to have someone prosecuted whether they consider themselves a drug dealer or not. In a case against Alexandria Santa Barbara, she was charged with murder after she provided drugs to a neighbor. Having turned to drugs herself after running out of Percocet, Santa Barbara allegedly started using heroin. According to the prosecution, a neighbor handed her $10 and asked for a favor. The heroin she gave him was allegedly laced with fentanyl and killed him. By delivering drugs that resulted in death, prosecutors say what she did was a first-degree felony.

Florida is one of 20 states with drug-induced homicide laws

A drug-induced homicide is the crime of providing drugs that results in a death. The recent increase of deaths from drug overdoses have led prosecutors and police to begin to enforce the law at greater numbers. The drug-induced homicide law is a third-degree murder charge. Who is at fault when someone dies from an overdose? When local police and prosecutors try to answer that question, they may look at family, friends and acquaintances of the deceased.

Many people who have been the target of prosecutors after an overdose death most likely never intended to cause any harm. The ones who were charged could have easily been the one who ended up dead. The fact is, a charge of murder is possible from the act of sharing drugs with someone who dies as a result of taking those drugs.

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