Though laws vary in regard to culpability, 20 states regard drug delivery resulting in death as a crime.
A new feature on Psychology Today highlights an alarming possibility for parents and teenagers: Sharing drugs with friends can be considered legal grounds for a charge of dealing that can carry a prison sentence.
The feature references a New York Times article that details hundreds of cases of fatal overdoses in 36 states; many of these involved deaths that led to charges of homicide against friends and relatives, even though the deaths were considered unintentional.
The Minnesota case also highlights the broad definition of distribution or dealing that is employed by several states. Sharing or giving away drugs with no exchange of money can be considered distribution; even borrowing money from another person to purchase drugs which results in an overdose death can bring a prosecution charge. Though defendants may argue that they did not force the situation in which a fatal overdose occurred, prosecutors take the position that the drugs caused a death, regardless of intent.
“Some family has lost an innocent life,” said Peter Kilmartin, attorney general of Rhode Island, in the New York Times piece. “That victim no longer has a voice.”
The Psychology Today feature that connects the two stories advocates for direct communication about sharing drugs with teenagers. “Open a dialogue with your child about drug sharing and the new legal consequences,” wrote the story’s author, Sean Grover, LCSW. Involving family members or representatives from a child’s school is also suggested.