Readers may be aware that illegal opioid drug use is an epidemic across the nation, with the number of opioid overdose deaths drastically increasing over the last couple years. State and federal authorities have been working to address the problem in a number of ways.
The responses to the problem have ranged from taking a medical approach to the problem to using the criminal system as a tool to punish those involved in trafficking the drugs. An example of this is a new Florida law which allows prosecutors to issue charges of drug-induced homicide against those who distribute opioid drugs which cause death to a user.
Florida is not the only state to have passed such a law—over 20 states have done so. Many of these states have had these laws around for years, but are beginning to use them to crack down on opioid drug trafficking. The basic requirement of a conviction under these laws is that a causal connection must be shown between the sale of the drugs and the fatal overdose. This is hard to prove in many cases.
Whether or not these laws are effective in reducing fatal overdoses is dubious, but they have become a signal for a hard-line stance on the issue, despite potential problems. One criticism of these laws is that they can end up targeting family members or friends who share their drugs rather than those who deal opioids professionally. Another criticism is that the laws can discourage people from calling police when an overdose does occur.
In any drug case, of course, it is important to work with an experienced attorney who can address the legal issues at play, and who can help ensure the defendant’s rights are protected. We’ll say more about this in the context of drug-induced homicide charges in our next post.