In our last post, we wrote about a recent push in the Maryland House to allow state level charges for drug dealers who contribute to the fatal overdose of a client. As we pointed out, there is already such a law at the federal level. The law applies not only to heroin cases, but also to cases involving other opiates, including morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl.
Although a lot could be said about building a sound defense strategy for defendants facing drug charges under the federal law, we want to mention several points in this and our next post highlighting the importance of working with a knowledgeable and experienced defense attorney.
The first point pertains to the first element of the charge, which is that prosecutors must be able to present evidence which demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim died or suffered serious bodily injury as a result of an overdose. According to the FBI, one of the important tasks of investigators is to distinguish between cases of accidental drug overdose and cases of accidental death. Two particularly important pieces of evidence federal investigators looks for are paraphernalia items, as well as telephones, cell phones, the Internet and other means by which the victim may have been able to communicate with a dealer.
Ultimately, though, it is the autopsy that is considered to be definitive by investigators. Although investigations of fatal overdose cases are often performed properly, it is important for defendants to work with their attorney to scrutinize the evidence used by prosecutors. Defendants and their attorneys should scrutinize the case to ensure the evidence adequately supports the contention that the victim’s death is the result of a drug overdose rather than another accident.
We’ll continue this discussion in our next post.