As some Tennessee residents may know, deaths related to heroin overdose have increased over the past seven years. Due to this fact, many states have enacted or are considering legislation that would impose harsh penalties on drug dealers who sold narcotics to a customer who later died.
Currently, almost 1,000 deaths due to heroin overdose occur annually in Ohio, according to reports. This represents a four-fold increase since 2008. According to authorities, it may be possible to find out where the decedent purchased the drugs. Police are able to examine phone logs and talk to family and friends to determine the seller.
In one case, a 24-year-old woman died after using heroin. Police tracked the sale back to a drug dealer who allegedly sold the heroin to the woman. Facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, the defendant may be incarcerated for up to 19 years if convicted. A bill, introduced by an Ohio representative, would increase the charge to aggravated murder when a drug is sold that results in an overdose that causes death. Penalties might include a life sentence.
Legal experts, including a Harvard professor, are concerned that such cases may not meet criminal liability standards. For instance, in each case, a guilty act coupled with causation and intent must be proven. Causation may be affected since the individual who overdosed took the drug after purchasing it. In addition, the drug dealer most likely did not intend for his or her customer to die. Prosecutors would need to prove proximate cause and intent.
A person who is facing drug or other felony charges may want to speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The attorney can review the circumstances in order to determine the best defense strategy to use before or at trial.