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

How a friend's overdose can lead to murder charges

Really good friends share just about everything -- including, sometimes, their drugs. These days, however, sharing your pain medication or the pills that you managed to buy from a local dealer with a friend can lead to murder charges if that friend happens to overdose.

For a long time, law enforcement agencies tended to consider drug overdose deaths as largely accidental in nature. Absent evidence to the contrary, they were a tragic mistake -- but there was nothing criminal about it.

As of late, however, there's been a shift in the paradigm surrounding the way that overdose deaths are regarded. Now, prosecutors all around the nation are increasingly taking the approach that any act that leads to someone's death via a drug overdose is an act of homicide.

That means that every overdose is a crime scene, and police want to know where the victim got the drugs that killed him or her.

Initially designed to bring accountability for the drug epidemic back to the drug dealers who are putting poison on the streets and doctors who are writing reams of prescriptions out of shady clinics, the practice is also putting a lot of ordinary individuals on trial. Twenty states have changed their laws to make it easier to criminalize the process of helping someone obtain drugs. Another 13 states have added laws regarding drug-induced homicides.

How easy is it to end up facing murder charges over an overdose death? Consider these scenarios:

  • You give your best friend pain pills left over from a recent surgery because you're trying to help her manage a back injury. She takes too many and suffers a fatal heart attack.
  • You buy a handful of OxyContin from a dealer and split the drugs with your wife. She dies because the pills are laced with fentanyl.
  • You're an addict and your neighbor asks you to pick up drugs from the dealer you share and deliver them. He dies after using them.

In all these instances, you could have just as easily been a victim yourself and you certainly meant no harm. However, the prosecutor may try to send you to prison.

Prescription drug crimes are serious offenses that are being treated with little compassion from the courts -- even when the accused is an addict. If you're charged with a crime in relation to an overdose, an attorney can protect your rights.

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