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Prosecutors Charging Bystanders After Overdose Deaths

The Law Office of Joel M. Bacher July 3, 2018

Many people in New Jersey and New York have fallen victim to the opioid epidemic. Unfortunately, many people have died from overdoses of heroin and fentanyl. In some cases in which other drug users shared drugs with the overdose victims or provided drugs to them, prosecutors are filing murder charges against these bystanders.

NPR reports that jurisdictions across the U.S. have started prosecuting other drug users when people die from overdoses. The prosecutors do this by stretching what it means to be a drug dealer to include drug users who share drugs with others. This has led to multiple people being charged with serious offenses across the country.

One Pennsylvania woman who is addicted to heroin purchased $10 worth of the drug at the request of her neighbor, who also used heroin. The heroin that the woman bought for him was laced with fentanyl, and the man died after overdosing. Prosecutors charged the woman with a homicide offense as a drug dealer, and she is facing from 20 to 40 years in prison if she is convicted.

There is no evidence that prosecuting bystanders with homicide offenses when they have shared drugs with the victims helps to combat the addiction problem. Some experts worry that prosecuting drug overdose bystanders will simply mean that fewer people will be willing to call for help when a person suffers an overdose. People who are facing felony drug charges for providing drugs to someone who overdosed may want to get experienced legal help as soon as possible. An experienced criminal defense lawyer may negotiate with the prosecutor in an effort to try to secure the best outcome for his or her client. In some cases, an attorney may be able to achieve dismissal of the charges against his or her client. In others, he or she might secure a plea agreement that does not require imprisonment.