Could Charging Drug Dealers with Homicide Prevent Opioid-Related Deaths?

Many states have started charging drug dealers with the deaths of their customers if they sold them their final dose of opioids.

Drug overdose is a growing epidemic in the United States, and many different entities are working to combat the problem.

Certain states have begun charging drug dealers with homicide, and other related charges after selling their customers a final dose of opioids. Not only are the dealers being charged with dealing illicit drugs, they are also being charged with homicide, involuntary manslaughter, or murder-related charges in states such as Ohio, Maine, West Virginia, and New Jersey.

A 36-year-old man from Louisiana was recently arrested on charges of second degree homicide and 2 counts of heroin distribution, after allegedly selling drugs to an individual who died of an overdose, according to The Times-Picayune.

In Louisiana, overdose-related deaths were once ruled as an accident, even after the law changed in 1987. The law, Strict Liability for Drug-Induced Death, allows prosecutors to charge drug dealers with a crime related to the death of their customer.

However, because of the epidemic, many agencies across the US are charging suppliers with murder.

Michael Millette, of New Hampshire, was charged with dealing illicit drugs and murder after he sold Edward Martin, III the drug fentanyl, according to police. Martin overdosed in a convenience store bathroom and was found dead, the Associated Press reported.

Millette pleaded guilty to sale of a controlled drug-death resulting, and multiple charges related to possession and sale of drugs.

“Edward Martin, III’s death, like so many others that the State has experienced, is a tragedy. It highlights the problem of prescription opiate, heroin and fentanyl abuse that has been growing steadily and remains one of the greatest challenges facing law enforcement here in New Hampshire and nationwide,” Attorney General Joseph A. Foster said in a press release. “While a solution to this problem is multi-faceted and must involve education, prevention, and treatment, an important part of the solution will continue to be identifying, arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating heroin and fentanyl dealers like Michael Millette.”

Last year, 2 New Jersey drug dealers were charged with the death of a 31-year-old man after allegedly the man fentanyl only hours before he died, according to NJ.com. The dealers face third-degree drug offenses, in addition to first-degree strict liability for the man’s death, which can carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

New Jersey prosecutors have been known to use aggressive tactics to prevent even more opioid-related deaths, and have begun charging dealers who manufactured or sold an illicit substance that caused death in accordance with a 1987 law.

In Ocean County, CA, fatal overdoses more than doubled from 2012 to 2013, and the problem has continued to grow since then, according to CNN. All of these prosecutors hope that the fear of being convicted of a drug-related death and other related charges will be enough to prevent people from selling dangerous illicit opioids.