Should a drug dealers or a drug supplier be charged with murder when somebody dies from a fatal drug overdose? With deaths on a rise due to the consumption of heroin and opioids at a high, prosecutors have begun to charge those who supplied the final dose with murder, even if that person is the victim’s friend, lover, sibling or spouse.
Generally there are two parties involved that could be charged with murder – the dealer and fellow user. In cases involving the fellow user who gave another user what ends as a fatal dose, there are a lot of demerits in charging the survivor with a crime. Critics warn that it would discourage people from calling 911 when they see an overdose and that we should try to help drug addicts rather than punish them. In fact this would also weaken the state’s Good Samaritan overdose laws that offers to protect drug users who call 911 during an overdose, which would result in even more deaths.
Now on the other hand, we have drug dealers who are not protected by Good Samaritan laws and can be charged with homicide and/or murder in some cases. This again depends on a case to case basis 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 in drugs like heroin certainly meets those requirements. Providing drugs that resulted in a fatal overdose can be considered involuntary manslaughter if it was dangerous to human life or safety based on the specific circumstances involved.
In recent years, a number of states, including California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington, have enacted or revised laws aimed at punishing dealers for the overdose deaths of their clients. A growing number of law enforcement officials around the country are prosecuting drug dealers for causing heroin overdose deaths.
It is important to note that it’s a crime not only to sell drugs in Nevada but also to “import, transport, exchange, barter, supply, prescribe, dispense, give away, administer, or manufacture” controlled substances.
Therefore, the simple acts of trading drugs, giving drugs away for free or making drugs for personal use can be punished just as harshly as a drug sale in the state of Nevada.
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