In Pennsylvania, some people believe that if they sell drugs, the worst thing that could happen is that they might be prosecuted with possession with the intent to distribute drugs. While drug sales and possession with the intent to distribute drugs carry harsh penalties, people can also face an even more serious charge. Depending on the type of drug, people can face charges of drug delivery resulting in death. This crime is charged much more frequently in Pennsylvania than in other states. If you are facing this type of charge, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney at DiCindio Law as soon as possible.
What is drug delivery resulting in death?
Drug delivery resulting in death is defined in Pa.C.S. § 2506 Under this statute, you can be charged with delivering drugs resulting in death if you intentionally give, administer, sell, deliver, distribute, or prescribe a controlled substance to others, and someone dies after using the drug.
Medical professionals are occasionally charged with this crime when they overprescribe opiates. However, this crime is much more frequently charged against people who are not in the medical field but who are suspected of selling or administering drugs to others that result in an overdose and death. In some cases, a person who is addicted to drugs will share them with a friend. The friend might then overdose and die, leading to his or her friend being charged with this crime.
What are the penalties for delivering drugs resulting in death?
Delivering drugs resulting in death is a first-degree felony in Pennsylvania with severe penalties.
If you are convicted of this offense, you might face the following penalties:
- Prison for up to a maximum of 40 years
- Fine of up to a maximum of $25,000
- Civil forfeiture of property
- Criminal restitution to the family of the victim
What does the prosecutor have to prove?
The prosecutor must prove the elements of drug delivery resulting in death beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. He or she will have to prove that you intentionally supplied the drug to another person and that you recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally caused the victim’s death. Pennsylvania courts have held that simply selling heroin to someone else is sufficient evidence to prove that the seller recklessly caused the person’s death if he or she overdoses and dies.
Can you defend against a charge of drug delivery resulting in death?
It can be terrifying to be charged with drug delivery resulting in death. However, it is still possible to defend against this type of charge. Anyone who is accused of this crime should retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after the charges are filed. A defense attorney can work closely with experts to defend against these types of allegations. It is never a good idea to try to defend yourself against serious felony charges without the help of an experienced attorney.
Two potential defenses that might be available in a drug delivery resulting in a death case are described below.
- Joint user defense – A joint user defense might apply when two people jointly decide to purchase a drug to use only with each other. In this type of scenario, the two drug users should only be guilty of drug possession as they had not intended to further distribute the drug. For example, the first conviction of possession of heroin will carry up to a maximum of one year in jail and a driver’s license suspension of up to six months. While these penalties are harsh, they are much better than facing 40 years in prison for a drug delivery resulting in a death conviction. The legal basis for charging joint users of drugs is that they each are in actual or constructive possession of the drugs, so one person cannot be charged with distributing a drug to the other user since they both had possession of it.
If you assert this defense, the court will consider a number of factors, including the following:
- The relationship between you and the alleged victim
- Any statements or actions by you and the alleged victim before he or she died
- How much control you or the alleged victim had over each other
- Whether you and the alleged victim traveled and purchased the drug together
- How much drugs were involved
- Whether you or the alleged victim had sole possession of the drug for any substantial length of time
Since this involves a factual analysis, the jury will make the determination unless you decide to request a bench trial instead of a jury trial.
- Causation defense – While the prosecutor does not have to prove that the specific drug caused the victim’s death through an overdose, he or she must still prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you sold, delivered, or gave away the drug to the other person. This can be more difficult in cases in which long-time drug users die and are found with paraphernalia that do not have distinctive stamps or markings.
Your defense attorney will consider both a causation defense and a joint user defense. He or she will also explore other potential defenses that might be available to you, including challenging the toxicological reports and others.
Get help from an experienced criminal defense attorney
If you have been charged with drug delivery resulting in death, or your loved one is facing this type of charge, you should retain an experienced drug defense lawyer as soon as possible. Michael DiCindio at DiCindio Law is a former prosecutor who understands how prosecutors build their cases. This background provides him with a unique insight into how to defend his clients against serious drug charges. Contact our law firm today to schedule a consultation and learn about your legal options by calling us at (610) 430-3535.