Homicide, murder charges for drug overdoses becoming more common

As the opioid epidemic continues to surge out of control across the country, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are getting tough on those whose alleged actions contribute to opioid use, addiction and fatalities. In some cases, that has meant homicide and murder charges against those accused of providing drugs to someone who ultimately died from an overdose.

Here in Minnesota, a 21-year-old woman was charged with third-degree murder last month for providing the drugs that led to a 23-year-old man’s death. She’s also been charged with third-degree drug sales. According to authorities, three people overdosed in an apartment in Mankato this May. Two of them survived.

Investigators with the Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force say the victims believed they were taking oxycodone. However, the counterfeit drugs actually contained fentanyl, which is a dangerous painkiller. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner determined that the young man’s death was caused by fentanyl toxicity.

The question of whether people who sell drugs should be held legally responsible for the injury or death of the people who consume those drugs has long been a source of debate. However, homicide charges for overdose deaths have become more common since the 1980s. According to the New York Times, they increased fourfold in Minnesota in just ten years.

A person doesn’t have to be what we commonly think of as a “drug dealer” to get hit with such charges. People who have provided drugs to friends or family members who died from an overdose have also faced serious criminal charges for their deaths.

If you or a loved one is facing charges relating to drugs (whether illegal or legally prescribed) that were sold or provided to someone else who suffered a negative outcome, it’s essential to get experienced legal guidance.