Martin & Kent, L.L.C. Martin & Kent, L.L.C.

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Harsh laws for drug dealers and overdoses

Illinois residents may find interest in learning that Ohio is seeking to hold drug dealers responsible in complicated drug overdose deaths. In response to the approximate 1,000 heroin overdose-related deaths each year, Ohio prosecutors have switched to a focus on prosecuting heroin dealers. One 24-year-old victim of a heroin overdose who died in 2015 resulted in an investigation into the source of the drugs involved.

By tracking text messages on the victim's phone, authorities located the alleged drug dealer, a 26-year-old who was indicted on one charge of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, the alleged dealer could face a prison sentence of 19 years. This case, while not representative of the way Ohio authorities usually handle overdose deaths, may be indicative of a continued focus on indicting drug dealers.

Illinois and other states have these so-called "drug delivery resulting in death" laws, which vary in terms of punishment. In Pennsylvania, this charge can result in 40 years in prison, while a Michigan sentence could be for life. The new initiative is not without its critics, and an Ohio state representative's bill to increase the state penalty for a drug sale that results in a fatal overdose stalled in the state senate in 2014. One Harvard Law School professor explained that such laws do not meet the liability requirements of a guilty act, intent and causation for a criminal case.

For those who have been indicted on drug charges in an alleged sale of heroin or another drug that resulted in an overdose, the new laws leave much in question. A criminal defense attorney may be able to provide insight into whether such laws apply to an individual case. If so, the attorney may claim that the drugs that caused the overdose came from another source.

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