In the past, overdose deaths were largely regarded as accidents – but that’s changed. Preventable drug overdoses have risen dramatically in the United States in the last few decades, and authorities are anxious to find ways to turn things around.
To that end, Indiana prosecutors are increasingly making use of a 2018 statute that now makes dealing drugs a Level 1 felony when the recipient dies after ingesting them. If convicted of this charge, defendants face a minimum of 20 years in jail and a maximum of 40, along with $10,000 in fines and other penalties.
Why this charge is so problematic
Prosecutors often apply this charge in situations that are arguably already tragic. For example:
- A husband gives his wife some spare oxycontin pills left over from surgery because she injured her back and can’t get in to see a doctor, but she takes too many and overdoses.
- An addict routinely shares drugs like heroin and meth with their housemate, who is also an addict. One night, they get drugs laced with fentanyl and the housemate dies.
- Two best friends go to a party and one of them gives the other some kind of “party pill” like ecstasy or LSD. The drug triggers an allergic reaction, and the best friend dies.
Dealing resulting in death can be a difficult charge to defend. The statute specifically states that it’s no defense to say that the victim took the drug voluntarily or in combination with other drugs. (The latter might indicate that the drug you provided wouldn’t have been fatal on its own). That makes it essential to have qualified legal guidance as early as possible if you or someone you love is facing charges.