Drug-induced homicide laws are putting drug dealers, as well as friends and family who share drugs behind bars.
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Drug-Induced Homicide Laws
When a person sells or shares drugs with another person who dies from an overdose, the person who supplied the drugs can be charged drug-induced homicide. With the steep rise in drug addiction and overdose deaths in recent years, many states have adopted drug-induced homicide laws to help fight the war on drugs. According to the New York Times, 36 states have prosecuted drug-induced homicides. Between 2015 and 2017, records show that drug-induced homicide cases doubled across the country and quadrupled in Minnesota. Criminal charges in these cases ranged from involuntary manslaughter to second-degree murder.
The opioid epidemic in America has created a public health crisis. In 2016, opioid overdose deaths killed one percent of the U.S. population, more than all deaths from the Vietnam War. Opioid overdose is responsible for 20 percent of deaths in American young people between ages 25-34. To address these problems, many states have created a Drug Task Force to enforce drug-induced homicide laws when overdose victims die from shared drugs. In New York, a woman was convicted of drug-induced homicide and sentenced to six years in prison for mailing a friend drugs who died of an overdose. In Florida, a man injected his girlfriend with what he thought was heroin. It turned out to be Fentanyl and the girl died of an overdose. The man was charged with second-degree murder.
Although drug-induced homicide laws were enacted to deter drug sales and drug use, research shows that they do not deter either. Many health experts argue that drug addiction is a mental health issue that is not a part of a person’s free will. This raises questions and concerns about induced-homicide charges imposed on people who are addicts themselves and share drugs with other addicts. Should these people be held liable for overdose deaths? In many cases, drug addicts often discover other addicts or friends who have overdosed. Would calling for help put them at risk for criminal offense charges?
Drug-induced homicide laws are controversial. Some states argue that these laws deter drug dealers, while others argue that they simply put more addicts in jail where their addiction becomes worse. Health experts argue that the money spent on prosecution, conviction, and housing a person in jail would be better spent on drug treatment and recovery.