It is sad, yet true. Maryland has one of the highest rates for fatal drug overdoses in the country. To try to combat this, there are laws in place that take a very hard stance against those who sell drugs to someone who later overdoses. This means that even though another person willing decided to use drugs, the person who sold them the drugs is the one held responsible.
Murder charges for sharing drugs
State law allows prosecutors to charge someone with murder or manslaughter if they give drugs to someone who subsequently overdoses.
The state law that clears the way for these charges is called second-degree depraved heart murder. Prosecutors will try to prove that the person who sold the drugs — or gave the drugs — had extreme indifference for someone else’s life, and that disregard resulted in the death of the other person. If convicted, this charge carries a sentence of up to 30 years.
Is this the best alternative?
Despite the availability of this law, not many prosecutors are using them. However, with the ever-growing concern over fatal opioid overdoses, there could be pressure for prosecutors to push for the max.
Knowing that there are such severe consequences, those using drugs may also be less likely to call police if they suspect someone is overdosing. It is not uncommon for people on drugs to also sell drugs to get money for their own addiction. This means often drug dealers and drug addicts are using together.
Looking to the future, as the opioid epidemic continues to sweep through the state — and the country — the hope is that more is done to get addicts the help they need to get sober, and not only focus on the criminal charges.