It seems impossible for many people to think that they or a loved one could face murder or manslaughter charges for a third party’s fatal overdose. Yet, due to drug-induced homicide laws, that is precisely what is happening.
In 1986, the federal government passed the Controlled Substances Act, which holds the seller or distributor of a controlled substance legally responsible for the death or serious bodily injury of a user. The penalty, under federal law, is 20 years. Per a DrugPolicy.org publication, 20 states currently have their own laws pertaining to drug-induced homicide. New Jersey is one of them.
What is drug-induced homicide?
Drug-induced homicide refers to the crime in which a person procures drugs — whether through illegal sales, manufacturing, distribution or delivery — that ultimately result in the death of the end-user. The person who provides the drugs does not have to force the user to take them, and nor does he or she have to even be present at the time of an overdose, for the state to charge him or her with drug-induced murder or manslaughter. The penalty for a conviction varies by state and can be anywhere from two years in prison to life imprisonment.
What are Good Samaritan laws?
Good Samaritan laws offer some relief to individuals who face drug-induced homicide charges. Per the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, states have Good Samaritan laws to encourage persons to help individuals who are in the midst of a medical emergency or are, to some degree, incapacitated.
In New Jersey, the courts may grant immunity to any person who, in good faith, sought medical care for him or herself or another person in the midst of an overdose crisis. Immunity extends to charges pertaining to the possession or use of illegal substances and/or paraphernalia. Though immunity may not extend to drug-induced homicide charges, every bit of relief could help to lessen a person’s sentence. An attorney can help defendants explore further avenues of relief.