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Increase in fatal drug overdoses prompts consideration of new bill

With the problem of spreading heroin use gaining greater attention in Maryland in recent months, it makes sense that state lawmakers in the House are currently contemplating a bill that would increase penalties for those who deal the dangerous drug. The bill would allow prosecutors to charge dealers or heroin or fentanyl when one of their clients overdoses.

At the federal level, prosecutors already have the ability to charge drug dealers who contribute to the overdose of a client. The measure, sometimes referred to as the Lens Bias Law in memory of the man whose overdose death prompted its passage, calls for a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and up to a life in prison. The law applies not only to cases of overdose death, but also cases in which drug overdose causes serious bodily injury. 

In order to secure a conviction under the law, prosecutors must be able to show that the victim took drugs that were sold by the defendant. With regard to sentencing, it usually doesn’t matter in these cases what the quantity of the drugs involved in the case—only that the defendant sold the victim the drugs. In addition, sentencing does not depend on whether the victim died or was seriously injury—the penalties are the same.

Like any criminal case, there are certain things defendants should know when seeking to build the best possible drug defense case. In our next post, we’ll continue this discussion and take a look at some of these issues and how an experienced criminal defense attorney can help in these cases.

Sources:

Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Investigation Opiate-Overdose Deaths,” Todd R. Prough, M.A., Accessed March 10, 2015.

Wjla.com, “Proposed Md. bill targets heroin dealers, would make distribution contributing to death a homicide,” Diane Cho, Feb. 10, 2015. 

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