Fatal overdoses from heroin are on the rise in California and around the country. Authorities in many states have begun to consider increasing the charges for selling drugs that result in a fatality. A drug dealer in Ohio has been charged with involuntary manslaughter after selling heroin to a girl who then overdosed on the drug.
Several states have started looking into criminal charges in these instances and the potential for increased penalties. An Ohio legislator has introduced a bill that will charge the dealer who sold a person the drug with aggravated murder if the person then dies from it. He believes if the long-term consequences are not extremely severe, the dealers will consider the large amount of money they are making and decide that if they are caught, then a little time in jail is worth it.
There are legal problems involved in charging a dealer with murder if a customer dies from it, though. A charge of murder requires intent, and drug dealers don't necessarily intend for their customers to die. It is also not reasonably foreseeable that everyone who takes the drug will die. An intervening cause of the overdose is that the person didn't just buy the drug, they ingested it or injected it, and this breaks the causal link.
A person who has been charged with drug trafficking may want to immediately obtain the assistance of a criminal defense attorney in order to develop a strategy to use before or at trial. In some cases, it may be possible to challenge the constitutionality of the search that led to the seizure of the drugs in question, potentially rendering that evidence to be excluded.
Source: WOSU, "Drug Dealers Face Charges In Complex Fatal Overdose Cases", Mandie Trimble, Sept. 21, 2015