Fatal overdoses and drug dealer liability

Drug overdoses are a serious problem in Illinois and around the country. Prosecutors are now using new strategies to combat these occurrences. After a fatal overdose, investigators may look at the victim's cellphone call logs and text messages to determine who was likely to supply the drugs. In some cases, this could lead to criminal charges for the dealer such as involuntary manslaughter.

Some states are enacting so-called "drug delivery resulting in death" laws to try to prevent fatal overdoses. The penalties for such charges vary from state to state. In some states, a drug dealer could face life in prison if he or she is linked to a fatal overdose.

There are problems with the new laws, however. To be liable for a crime, a person must generally have an intent to commit the criminal act, and there must be causation. It may not be reasonably foreseeable that a person who ingests illegal drugs will ingest enough to cause a fatal overdose. Another problem is the question of whether the person ingesting the drug breaks the link between the act of selling the drug and the fatal result. To prove that the person who sold an illegal drug is criminally responsible for a death related to overdose, legal analysts believe that it would be necessary to show that the sale of the drug was the main reason why a person overdosed.

A person who has been charged with violating these new laws may wish to contact a criminal defense attorney. An attorney may be able to assist a person charged with this type of crime by providing advice, conducting legal research, examining the evidence and presenting a strong defense at trial if no plea agreement can be reached.

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