PROSECUTING DRUG OVERDOSE CASES
In 2020, there were 1,477 people who died of drug overdoses in Colorado, the highest number that’s ever been recorded in the state. These statistics, from the Colorado Health Department, shed light on a growing problem across the country of increasing overdose deaths. Lawmakers and those in the criminal justice system struggle to address this issue in a way that holds those at fault accountable yet also doesn’t punish end users and those trying to help them.
The laws surrounding overdose deaths are complicated. If you’ve been arrested on a homicide charge that’s related to a drug overdose, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you understand your options. At Hebets & McCallin in Denver, Colorado, we’re able to serve clients throughout the area, including Douglas County, Arapahoe County, Jefferson County, and Adams County. Reach out today to schedule a consultation.
Overview of the Opioid Problem in Colorado
The opioid problem isn’t unique to Colorado—the whole country is grappling with how to deal with drug-induced deaths due to opioids, fentanyl, and heroin. At the federal level, the Controlled Substances Act allows prosecutors to go after the person who delivered or supplied the drugs, but this approach has been problematic and can target friends or loved ones of the victim instead of drug companies or larger drug dealers. In Colorado, state lawmakers have passed several pieces of legislation in the last 10 years to address this crisis, focusing on treatment programs, education, family services, as well as the Good Samaritan Law.
The Good Samaritan Law protects those who report a drug overdose or stay on the scene of a drug overdose until law enforcement arrives from some criminal prosecution. This law and others like it can help prevent overdoses by getting medical help to victims faster when people are no longer afraid of the repercussions of reporting it. However, the report must be made in “good faith” and you must stay at the scene of the incident and remain compliant with law enforcement. The law doesn’t protect against all drug-related crimes, as you could still be arrested for crimes like trafficking or distribution.
Charges Against Drug Distribution Companies
Recently, there’s been growing support for charging drug distribution companies for their role in drug-related deaths. This has already started happening at the federal level with a case brought against Rochester Drug Cooperative in which they settled out of court and agreed to pay a $20 million fine for their role in the opioid epidemic. Other charges toward these large companies are springing up all over the country and may pave the way for more accountability in the distribution of these drugs to pharmacies.
Charges Against Doctors
There is also a push for charging medical professionals for irresponsible and/or unlawful prescription of addictive painkillers. Dozens of doctors have already been charged by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration due to overprescribing painkillers. These doctors have the ability to write prescriptions for highly-addictive drugs like fentanyl and other opioids, and if this is left unchecked, there could be even higher rates of overdose death in the years to come. That said, many doctors prescribe these drugs judiciously and have little control over what happens with them once they’re in the patient’s hands. One misstep can cause these doctors to be caught up in a murder charge needing to defend themselves and their practice.
Charges Against Drug Dealers & Providers of Drugs
So far, most likely the largest group who’s been charged with these crimes are drug dealers or others who provide drugs to the end user. When the buyer overdoses and dies, law enforcement will look to find out who supplied them with the drugs. In some cases, the investigation will lead to large-scale distributors, but in other cases, it may turn up a low-level offender who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and is now facing murder charges.
While the death of anyone is not something to be taken lightly, in most cases the person who supplied the drugs had no intention to cause harm and these charges can feel unjust. Because of this, it’s essential that you hire an experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney if you’re in a situation like this. The potential consequences of a conviction are extreme and life-altering. Just because you made a mistake does not mean that your life and your rights aren’t worth defending.
Seek Reliable Representation at Hebets & McCallin
If you’re facing charges related to a drug-overdose death, you need to reach out to an attorney immediately. At Hebets & McCallin, we understand that bad things sometimes happen to good people and that we all make mistakes. These charges must be taken seriously—you need an attorney on your side who will fight on your behalf. If you’re in Denver or anywhere else in Colorado, call us today to get started.