Accidental drug overdose deaths should not trigger a murder charge, a USA Today opinion column says.
Those prosecutions “involve charging individuals with homicide when they supply drugs that result in a fatal overdose, even if there was no specific intent to kill,” the Aug. 2 article by Laura Conover notes. Conover is a county attorney in Arizona.
The article cites the case of a man who was convicted of drug-induced homicide in 2018 after supplying his sister with the heroin that resulted in her fatal overdose in McHenry County, Ill.
The drug-induced homicide laws created in the 1980s expanded to 23 states, Washington, D.C. and the federal system, the article notes.
Advocates argue that the laws are meant to “target high-level distributors, hold drug manufacturers accountable and deter trafficking.”
However, prosecutors of the laws have strayed from the statutes that originally intended to hold drug dealers accountable.
Over 107,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2021, more than car crash and gunshot fatalities combined, the article notes.
Washington, D.C. and 47 states have Good Samaritan laws, which grant immunity to people who call for assistance in an overdose emergency, but they do not protect individuals from facing drug-induced homicide because the protection only covers low-level drug charges like possession, the article says. They are also not always retroactive.
Elected officials have the option to create a different model when it comes to harm reduction approaches like medical-assisted treatment and overdose prevention sites. Some even choose a more public health-based response by not prosecuting possession or distribution of lifesaving medications.
The report concludes that punitive drug laws have an adverse effect on people struggling with substance abuse, creating more harm than good and costing taxpayers millions of dollars.