Since 2008, the number of deaths related to heroin overdoses in Ohio have quadrupled, and many other states including New Jersey have seen a spike in the number of drug-related fatalities as well. To help combat the problem, prosecutors around the country are going after the people who deal the drug, but there may be legal issues with taking such a hard stance. Some lawyers believe that a murder charge against a drug dealer as a result of an overdose does not contain the necessary elements.
To qualify, an individual would have to commit a guilty act that was carried out with intent to cause the death. Despite this, an Ohio state representative filed a bill that would charge drug dealers with murder if they provided drugs to an individual who later died after using the substance. While that bill was never enacted into law, other states do have similar statutes. An individual could face 40 years in prison if convicted in Pennsylvania. A life sentence is possible for those convicted of the charge in Michigan.
Despite the legal arguments raised, one prosecutor in Ohio doesn't think that there is anything unconstitutional about such a law. However, he would prefer that the charge be involuntary manslaughter as opposed to murder because the dealer doesn't intend for a user to die. He says that drug dealers need their customers to stay alive if they hope for future sales
Those who have been charged with drug trafficking or other drug crimes may want to consult with a criminal defense attorney. Legal counsel could build a defense strategy in a number of ways, depending upon the circumstances of the arrest and the past criminal history of the defendant.