Although illicit drugs are dangerous, some college students nevertheless choose to experiment with them. Sometimes, this involves supplying friends with illegal drugs or prescription medications. Few of these young people anticipate that their friends may suffer a fatal overdose. But if this does happen, the dealer may have to cope with far more than grief and survivor's guilt. Due to a once-obscure Pennsylvania law that is making a resurgence, the person who supplies the drugs used in a fatal overdose may be charged with the victim's murder.
Drug delivery resulting in death
The state of Pennsylvania has a little-known criminal charge called drug delivery resulting in death. The charge applies to anyone who intentionally delivers, sells or provides the controlled substances that cause a fatal overdose. Part of the state's homicide statute, a conviction can result in 20 to 40 years in prison.
Over the past four years, prosecutors in Pennsylvania have charged over 200 people with drug delivery resulting in death. The statute was once little-known and little-used, but it has made a significant comeback in the wake of state's opioid crisis. Because Pennsylvania's opioid crisis is still ongoing, many police officers and prosecutors are eager to harshly punish and make an example of anyone who supplies fentanyl or other opioids. In 2013, there were only 15 such charges; in 2017, there were 205.
Options for those who have been charged
Virtually anyone who supplies the illicit drugs used in a deadly overdose can be charged with drug delivery resulting in death. The charge is applicable even if the suspect did not intend to kill the victim. So, if an otherwise well-behaved college student with no criminal record gives recreational drugs to a friend and she overdoses, the student may face homicide charges and several decades in prison.
There are ways to fight a charge of drug delivery resulting in death as well as other drug-related charges. College students who have supplied drugs should know their rights and consider their legal options. Coping with a friend's overdose is painful enough without also facing criminal charges.