Chasing the Deadly Dragon

How the Opioid Crisis in the United States is Impacting the Enforcement of Drug-Induced Homicide Statutes

In response to the opioid crisis gripping our country, numerous states have been pursuing charges against drug dealers in situations where someone has overdosed on the drugs they received. Not only are prosecutors looking to press drug charges against these dealers, but surprisingly to most people, these prosecutors are looking to hold them responsible for murder. Whether by advancing new state legislation or reviving existing state statutes, prosecutors in at least twelve states are pursing these charges, as is the federal government under the Controlled Substances Act. Rather than offering any sort of deterrence effects, these homicide statutes are inappropriately holding drug dealers strictly liable for homicide due to the lack of a mens rea requirement in the statute. They are turning drug dealers, who are many times interchangeable with users, into murderers and leaving them with lengthy prison sentences. When one dealer becomes incarcerated, another one takes his place to keep up with the demand. As a result, the number of overdoses is not decreasing, and these statutes are not doing what the legislatures intended them to do. Rather, they are needlessly punitive in nature for everyone involved. These statutes should be either repealed or completely revamped to incorporate some form of an intent

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