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Can a friend's drug overdose lead you to murder charges?

In the past, when a drug user shared his or her stash of narcotics with a friend, it wasn't considered a crime when the friend overdosed.

Times have changed.

A drug overdose isn't always considered an accident these days -- and anyone who passes drugs to someone else can end up being charged with drug trafficking and murder as a result.

The changes in Florida law that have enabled prosecutors to charge someone with murder after an overdose were intended to target hardcore drug dealers. Unfortunately, the law can be used just as easily against friends and family members who simply share an addiction with the deceased. The fact that the person who ends up charged with a murder could have just as easily been an additional victim means nothing when prosecutors are determined to hold someone accountable for a death.

A lot of experts question the usefulness of such prosecutions. They point out that the money would be better spent fighting the addiction itself. Yet, prosecutors in 36 states, including Florida, have charged people with murder in accidental overdose deaths over 1,000 times between 2015 and 2017.

Here are some facts that everyone should know about how the charges work:

  • You can be considered a drug distributor if you assist someone in any way in the process of obtaining drugs.
  • It does not matter that the overdose victim took the drugs willingly.
  • It does not matter whether you charged someone for the drugs they took.
  • The overdose did not even have to occur in your presence for prosecutors to charge you. There merely has to be evidence that you somehow supplied the drugs.
  • "Good Samaritan" laws that protect you from prosecution for drug possession if you call for help do not protect you from homicide charges.

If you suffer from drug addiction, seek help as soon as possible. If you are facing felony charges after you provided a friend with drugs that caused an overdose, seek legal assistance immediately.

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