How overdoses are turning into murder charges

On Behalf of | Jun 7, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

The “War on Drugs” has been an unmitigated failure for years – but that hasn’t stopped authorities from continuing to wage it. The newest weapon in their arsenal is turning drug overdoses into murder charges.

In the past, overdoses were regarded as tragic outcomes of drug abuse and addiction – but they weren’t murder. That’s changed. 

Tampa has recently charged a drug dealer with first-degree murder

Early in 2024, a 29-year-old Tampa man died when he ingested methamphetamine and fentanyl. Just a few months later, the 48-year-old man who supplied the overdose victim with those drugs was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

This case marks the first time that Tampa authorities have made use of a 2022 law signed into being by Governor Ron DeSantis that permits someone to be prosecuted for murder if the drugs they supply result in that person’s death. 

Just like that, an accidental overdose becomes first-degree murder. In Florida, that crime can be punishable by a range of sentences, including either life in prison or the death penalty. It’s important to note that the prosecution does not have to prove that premeditation – the actual intention to cause someone’s death – in such cases. Instead, they need only show that the defendant unlawfully distributed a controlled substance that is covered under the 2022 law. 

That means that it’s entirely possible for someone to be charged with murder if, for example, they give their leftover painkillers to a friend to help them recover from a back injury or simply share the street drugs that they bought with a friend. 

While the case mentioned above is the first of its kind in the area, it certainly won’t be the last. If you are charged in connection with an overdose death, invoke your right to remain silent until you can explore all your defense options.