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Drug overdoses may lead to manslaughter charges for dealers

There's been a drastic increase in the number of drug-related deaths across the country -- which is causing police and prosecutors to take a second look at how they handle the issue.

Once upon a time, overdose deaths were treated as an unfortunate by-product of the underground drug trade, but they were almost always considered nothing more than a sad accident. Criminal charges were rarely involved.

Now, an overdose is increasingly likely to be investigated as a criminal matter. If the person who supplied the drugs to the deceased can be located, that person -- whether he or she is a drug dealer, fellow user, friend or relative -- can end up facing involuntary manslaughter charges.

Involuntary manslaughter, a type of murder, is increasingly being used to put pressure on drug dealers who supply opioid combinations like "gray death," a homemade cocktail of heroin, carfentanil and fentanyl. These cocktails are behind many of the drug-related deaths across the nation.

For example, an Ohio drug dealer was recently charged with involuntary manslaughter after his product was positively linked to the death of one of his customers. Police set up a sting to buy more of the same drug and arrested him on the spot. In addition to the manslaughter charges, he also faces the more usual charges of drug possession and drug trafficking. The enhancement brought by the manslaughter charge, however, increases the potential sentence he faces to life in prison.

Police are also getting creative with the charges they level even when nobody dies as a result of an overdose. If an overdose victim is successfully revived with Narcan, the drug dealer who supplied the near-fatal dose can be charged with corrupting another person with drugs -- a crime that on its own can net a 2-8 year prison sentence.

If you've been charged with a drug offense or any related crime, get an experienced criminal law attorney on your side. For more information on how our firm approaches these cases, please visit our page.

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