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Salisbury Criminal Law Blog

Fatal drug overdoses can bring serious criminal charges

Prosecutors here in Maryland and throughout the country are working to do whatever they can to stem the opioid epidemic that takes too many lives each year. A recent New York Times report using prosecution records in 15 states found that from 2015 to 2017, prosecutions for crimes related to drug overdose deaths almost doubled. One prosecutor said he looks at it this way: "You owe me for that dead kid."

What if the person who provided the overdose victim the drugs wasn't a dealer who got money in return but a family member or a friend who simply shared their drugs? In the eyes of the law, it's still a crime. If someone suffers a fatal overdose, that crime could be manslaughter, homicide or even murder. Those involved in obtaining the drugs could face charges more commonly associated with selling them, such as delivery or distribution, even though no money changed hands.

What constitutes disorderly conduct?

Disorderly conduct is a relatively vague term that can encompass numerous acts. In many cases, it is an additional charge when a person has committed other crimes. As an example, take the recent case of a Maryland man who received a disorderly conduct charge in addition to drug charges after he assaulted a police officer. 

In a majority of cases, disorderly conduct will be a misdemeanor. The convicted party can receive a fine up to $500 in addition to up to 60 days in jail. However, the punishments can become more severe depending on the exact circumstances surrounding the crime. Therefore, it helps to know exactly what actions constitute the crime.

Is it OK to divide your estate unevenly among your adult kids?

In an ideal world, all of your children would be equally successful. However, that's rarely the case. For any number of reasons, some beyond a person's control, adult siblings may end up with vastly different levels of financial security. One may be a world-renowned chef with several restaurants and a TV show. Another may be a respected professor, living in comfort but not vast wealth. Yet another may have never found his or her niche and is barely making ends meet on his income, with some help from his parents.

Scenarios similar to this aren't uncommon. So what do parents do when they plan their estate? They may want to leave their financially struggling child a larger share of their inheritance, knowing that their other kids don't need the money. However, they know (or at least fear) that it will cause a rift in the family and that the more successful kids will resent them and their sibling.

Why you shouldn't share your prescription drugs

In the pantheon of drug-related offenses, sharing your prescription medication with someone probably seems like an innocent thing to do. Whether it's sharing your prescription-strength antihistamine with a visiting friend who's allergic to your cats, giving a migraine pill to a co-worker to help her make it through the rest of the day or giving your half-empty bottle of leftover oxycodone to a friend who just twisted his ankle, many people do this all the time.

Prescription drugs are legal -- but only when they're prescribed by someone with the training and authority to do so and only when they're taken by the person who has been prescribed them. Outside of that system, there can be criminal penalties for giving them to someone or for possessing or consuming them.

Maryland man charged with DUI, not having interlock device

Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are a part of many Marylanders' lives. Under the Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016 ("Noah's Law") people convicted of certain DUI-related offenses to have an IID on their vehicles for a designated period.

If you've been ordered to have an IID and you're caught driving without one by law enforcement officers, you can face further criminal penalties.

Why your pets should be included in your estate plan

Many people these days are single or widowed and don't have any living family. Therefore, they see no reason to have an estate plan or even a simple will. They figure the courts will just sort things out. However, if you have pets, what will happen to them when you die?

Too many people don't give this any thought. Maybe they have friends whom they assume will take them. Perhaps they volunteer with a local rescue group that they trust will take them in and find good homes for them. However, you can never be sure of that. Too many animals needlessly end up in shelters every year because their people passed away and no one could or would take them in.

Driving with a suspended license so you can work

For some people, the fines and fees that come with traffic tickets can be a mere nuisance. On the other hand, if you are struggling to make ends meet, you may have to make many hard choices.

For instance, one choice could be whether to pay the ticket or pay the rent that you are already behind on. In such a case, the choice seems obvious: Pay the rent. So, being pulled over a few times for speeding or failing to use a turn signal could eventually result in a suspended or revoked license due to not paying fees and fines. If law enforcement catches you driving on a suspended or revoked license, things get serious and can lead to criminal charges.

Why Breathalyzer results aren't always accurate

Many Marylanders are arrested for DUI based, at least in part, on the results of a Breathalyzer test. These handheld tools use sensor technologies to measure a person's blood alcohol content (BAC).

Some use fuel cell sensors, while others use semiconductor sensors. Those that use fuel cell sensors are the more accurate of the two, and less likely to register false positives. People who have diabetes or who are following a low calorie diet, for example, can have a false positive result on a fuel cell sensor Breathalyzer, but not on one that uses semiconductor sensors.

'Good Samaritan 911' laws are designed to help overdose victims

Many people who die from drug overdoses don't intend to end their lives. Overdoses are the number one cause of accidental death for people from 25 to 64 -- even behind vehicle crashes -- in this country.

Many of these people aren't alone when they overdose. They are with others who are also taking illegal drugs. However, those bystanders are often afraid to call 911 to get help for the overdose victim out of fear that they (and the person who overdosed) will be arrested. Therefore, they leave the scene or try unsuccessfully to help.

Why a joint will probably isn't right for you

Some Maryland couples consult estate planning attorneys to have joint wills drafted. They figure that this is the most efficient way to leave their assets to their children. With a joint will, each can designate that when one of them dies, the estate will automatically go to the surviving spouse.

Joint wills aren't as common as they used to be. These days, documents can be drafted and printed easily and quickly, so there isn't the significant time and labor savings there once was.

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