For decades, drug dealers have faced serious criminal consequences if they were caught selling illegal substances like cocaine, heroin, prescription pills, marijuana or other drugs. Now, because of a disturbing increase in drug overdoses, those who sell drugs may be facing even more severe penalties.
Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for those under the age of 50. In 2016, overdoses were linked to the death of approximately 64,000 people in the U.S. Some states have already been able to legally charge dealers of drugs like cocaine or heroin with first-degree murder if the drugs they sold led to a person’s death through overdose. However, the proliferation of a new drug called fentanyl has caused legislators to sanction even stricter laws.
Fentanyl is a drug up to 50 times more powerful than heroin. It is often combined with heroin—sometimes without the dealer or buyer’s knowledge. Fentanyl is intended to be used for anesthesia or for managing chronic pain. When prescribed and monitored by a medical professional, it can be a beneficial drug, but when recreational users underestimate the amount of fentanyl they are consuming, it can be deadly. Fentanyl caused 20,100 deaths in 2016 in the United States alone. This represents a staggering 540% increase in overdose deaths caused by the drug in the last three years.
Drug Dealers Could Face the Death Penalty
Last year, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a law expanding the state’s first-degree murder code to include selling a lethal dose of fentanyl. The law took effect October 1, 2016. A person who sells fentanyl-containing drugs to another which results in their death can be charged even if they did not know that the drugs contained the deadly substance. If any fatal mixture is found to contain fentanyl, the dealer can be charged with first-degree murder.
Sentences for those convicted of first-degree murder may include life without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. Whether a drug dealer should face the same punishment as someone who intentionally killed another is a source of controversy. Some people think that first-degree murder charges should be reserved for those who kill with malicious intent. Proponents of the new stricter law believe that extreme action needs to be taken to help slow the explosion of opioid overdoses in recent years.
Facing Drug Charges?
In Connecticut, a person who provides drugs that lead to fatalities may be charged with second-degree manslaughter. The offense is defined as “recklessly causing the death of another person,” but there are no mandatory minimum penalties. Lawmakers are considering measures that would make causing a drug-induced death a murder charge, but there is a great deal of debate on the issue.
If you have been charged with a crime related to drug distribution, you need an attorney who knows the law. Contact an experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney right away. We will aggressively work to protect your rights. Call [[phone1]] for a free consultation at Woolf Law Firm, LLC today.