Downstream Drug Culpability

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Aug 25, 2020 | 0 Comments

If you give someone else drugs, and they commit a crime, are you culpable? Can you face charges? What may those charges be?

In one Pennsylvania county, a man allegedly delivered drugs to a customer. That customer later died of an overdose. The drug-deliverer stood accused of “drug delivery resulting in death, criminal use of a communication facility, and delivering heroin,” according to the Baltimore Sun. This may be in part because Pennsylvania is one of several states that has severe drug-induced homicide laws. A report from the Drug Policy Alliance notes that many states are increasing their use of these types of laws to curb drug-related crime.

It's clear from the charges in this case that the law considers this Pennsylvania drug-deliverer at least partially responsible for the victim's death. How far does this responsibility go? If you dispense or deliver drugs, what will your culpability be with regards to “downstream” crimes?

Your Responsibility When Delivering or Dosing Drugs

If a drug that your friend or customer may have used or taken directly influenced their later criminal activity, you could have helped them commit a crime. In this case, you may be an ‘accomplice' to the crime. If not, you could still face charges of ‘delivering a controlled substance.'

You don't necessarily have to be a drug dealer to accrue this formal guilt. A New York Times story details a recent incident in which a 21-year-old brought drugs to a party. As a result of taking that drug, several other attendees fell ill, and one man died. The 21-year-old faced murder charges and a jail sentence.

How often does this happen? According to a 2004 Bureau of Justice Statistics study, “32% of state prisoners and 26% of federal prisoners said they had committed their current offense while under the influence of drugs.” This means that committing crimes while under the influence is a prevalent issue.

There's also the question of conscious culpability. As the New York Times article goes on to note, “Providing or helping someone get a drug illegally puts you on shaky ground for everything that happens later.” If the primary criminal was under the influence while committing a crime, they, by definition, were not acting with their full mental capacity.

Many prosecutors may argue that your actions resulted in their influenced activity. Whether you are present at the scene of the crime or overdose does not seem to matter. Prosecutors, as the New York Times article concludes, “often see overdoses from the point of view of the victim's families” — many of whom point to the drugs, and those who dispensed them, as the primary cause of the crime.

Clearly, these cases can be full of nuanced judgment calls. However, they also attract severe consequences, resulting in very high stakes. If you face these types of charges, you likely need assistance.

If you need a strong defense to a drug-related crime, call attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm right away at 888-535-3686. We can help you understand what to do next and help you protect your rights.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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