If you sell or share drugs with another person, you can be held liable if they die from an overdose. Several states, including Minnesota have implemented drug-induced homicide laws in response to the ever-growing opioid epidemic and number of fatalities from drug related overdoses.
The opioid crisis in the U.S. is a major public health issue that’s exploded in recent years. The crisis is largely driven by the over-prescription of opioids for pain relief and a high volume of fentanyl entering the country, which can lead to a variety of serious health problems, including addiction, overdose and death.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 106,000 people died from drug-related overdose in 2021. With potent drugs like fentanyl and heroine flooding the illegal drug market, it’s predicted the number of deaths will continue to rise.
The drug-induced homicide law, which aims to deter drug sales and drug use, is considered controversial. Its supporters believe punishing people for selling and sharing drugs will combat the rampant drug crisis, while opponents argue that drug addiction is a serious mental health issue that can’t be solved by sending people to prison.
Regardless of societal views on the matter, Minnesota, along with several other states, has drug-induced homicide laws. Thus, if you provided or distributed drugs to someone who then dies as a result of using those drugs, you can face criminal charges and stiff penalties, including hefty prison time.
What Is Drug-Induced Homicide?
Drug-induced homicide involves causing the death of another person due to the distribution or sale of illegal drugs. This crime is often charged when a person dies from an overdose of drugs that were provided by another person.
A person doesn’t have to be a traditional drug dealer to be charged with this type of homicide. In fact, it’s not uncommon for drug addicts to face these charges if they happened to share drugs with someone who later died from an overdose.
In some cases, drug-induced homicide charges may be brought against someone who was not directly involved in providing the drugs but was aware of their presence and distribution.
Drug-Induced Homicide Laws in Minnesota
Like other states, Minnesota has been hit hard by the opioid crisis. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the number of deaths from opioid overdose increased by 44 percent from 2020 to 2021.
In response to this alarming statistic, the state is doubling down on drug dealers and drug users whose actions contributed to the deaths of others.
Under Minnesota law, drug-induced homicide is a criminal offense and is considered third-degree murder. The penalty for this crime is up to 25 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $40,000.
Additionally, the court may order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim’s family. The law also allows prosecutors to seek enhanced penalties if certain aggravating factors are present, such as if the defendant has prior convictions for drug-related offenses or if the victim was a minor.
What About the Good Samaritan Law?
The Good Samaritan law protects people who give reasonable assistance to those who are injured, ill or in peril. The protection is intended to reduce an individual’s hesitation to assist for fear of being sued or prosecuted for unintentional injury or wrongful death.
Minnesota’s drug-induced homicide law conflicts with and ultimately trumps the Good Samaritan law. In other words, if you witness someone overdosing on drugs you sold or shared with them, but you call 911 for help, you’ll still likely be charged with drug-induced homicide if said person passes away.
Fighting Drug-Induced Homicide Charges in the Twin Cities
If you’re arrested for drug-induced homicide or another crime, your future may be at stake. The chances of a positive outcome may increase if you hire a skilled criminal defense attorney who can help you build a strong defense.
Our referral counselors at the Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service (MLRIS) offer a helping hand in your search for a criminal defense attorney.
We’ll help you get connected with the right attorney for your unique situation. To learn more, call (612) 752-6699.