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When buying drugs becomes murder

When buying drugs becomes murder

In January 2011, a Minnesota woman was sentenced to 48 months in prison for an armed robbery. According to the Herald Review, she served 32 months and, upon release, immediately started using drugs. Four days later, she died of a drug overdose, and her husband was charged in connection with her death.

As any drug crime attorney in St. Paul knows, it is possible for someone, typically a drug dealer, to face criminal charges following an overdose incident. The case involving the Minnesota couple illustrates how murder charges may be brought against a spouse who did not sell the victim the narcotics.

Details of the case

According to a court complaint, the husband purchased a fentanyl patch two days before his wife died. He extracted the narcotic, and the couple injected the fentanyl that day and again on the day of the woman’s death. Law enforcement report that the man left the couple’s home for five minutes on the day his wife died, returning to find her unresponsive. He called 911, and the woman was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The man was charged with felony third degree murder and felony third degree narcotic sales. He pled not guilty to the murder charge.

State laws

According to Minnesota statute, murder in the third degree is defined as someone causing the death of someone else by committing a dangerous act like using drugs in the following activities:

  • Giving away drugs
  • Bartering or selling drugs
  • Delivering or distributing drugs
  • Exchanging drugs

As many a drug crime attorney in St. Paul have seen, someone who is charged with third degree murder faces penalties of imprisonment for up to 25 years and fines of up to $40,000.

Court precedent

In early January, two men were sentenced to time in prison in relation to the drug overdose of a Minnesota teenager. In that case, the men were charged with third-degree murder after selling a psychedelic drug to the teen.

The case involving the Minnesota man and wife is different, experts say, because the man did not sell the drug to his wife before she took it. The Minnesota Supreme Court heard two similar cases more than a decade ago. In one of those cases, only one spouse purchased drugs, and in the other, the spouses were together when buying drugs. In both situations, one party died from an overdose. The state’s highest court found in both instances that the spouses had joint possession of the drugs. Further, the defendants could not be convicted of murder because they could not be convicted of selling the drug.

The outcome of this case could set precedent for the way overdose deaths are prosecuted. Anyone with questions regarding the matter should consult with a drug crime attorney in St. Paul.

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