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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.

Authorities are increasingly charging those responsible for providing drugs to overdose victims or with helping them obtain the drugs. One father is dealing with a double tragedy. One of his sons was charged in the overdose death of his older brother after the two bought drugs online.

Some people argue that such prosecutions aren't a good use of the government's resources and don't get at the source of the drug problem. The father mentioned above who lost his son to a drug overdose says, "It's kind of like blaming the leaves on the tree, you know? What about the roots?"

If you or a loved one is facing charges because of someone's drug overdose, it's essential to take the matter seriously, even if you believe that no one was responsible for what happened besides the person who took the drugs. Prosecutors, a judge and jury may very well see it differently. Maryland criminal defense attorneys who know how to fight drug charges can work to get the charges reduced or dismissed.

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